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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Days before CAB tabled in House, inter-ministry meet discussed strategy

The meeting was held in November-end when the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), sources said, was “looped in”, and a strategy was devised to deal with the international dimensions.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: December 31, 2019 1:00:52 pm
Every Indian ambassador was sent all facts about the law and the rationale behind the legislation. This strategy was different from the one adopted from the previous occasions. (File)

About two weeks before the government brought in the citizenship Bill in Parliament, an inter-ministerial meeting took place in New Delhi to discuss the strategy to deal with the fallout of the then-proposed law, sources have told The Indian Express.

The meeting was held in November-end when the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), sources said, was “looped in”, and a strategy was devised to deal with the international dimensions.

After the Bill was passed, sources said the MEA asked Indian ambassadors in about 120 embassies across the world to go and brief the foreign governments, in case they were “interested”.

Every Indian ambassador was sent all facts about the law and the rationale behind the legislation. This strategy was different from the one adopted from the previous occasions.

Throughout 2019, the government had held several briefings for the diplomatic community on various issues it had described as “domestic”: Pulwama attack, Balakot airstrike, revocation of Article 370 in J&K, and the Ayodhya verdict.

But they were not briefed even once on CAA and its ramifications.

“This time, we felt India’s ambassadors will be able to do the job well, and they can respond to all the questions,” a source in the government said.

Sources said the government felt the matter was “domestic” in nature, and the Bill had gone through the legislative process and debate in Parliament. “The two Houses of Parliament debated the matter for two full days, and the Home Minister (Amit Shah) replied to all points of concern raised by MPs,” a source said.

Sources cited the example of India’s ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla — now Foreign Secretary-designate — who had briefed key interlocutors in Washington. “Similarly, if there was any need felt by any ambassador, he or she was armed with facts and material to explain the law to governments (abroad),” the source said.

Diplomats said some written material, mostly in the form of FAQs on CAA, have been shared with embassies.

The Indian Express had reported on Monday that more than a fortnight after the CAA came into force and triggered nationwide protests, there is growing unease within the capital’s foreign diplomatic community over the government’s moves.

The diplomats have publicly maintained that the CAA is an “internal issue”, but when The Indian Express spoke to ambassadors and diplomats from at least 16 countries, across all continents, over the last few days on the new law and the protests, they expressed “concern” at the situation.

The diplomats, who include representatives from G-20 and P-5 groupings, and neighbouring countries, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is “sensitive” and any attribution “may impact” bilateral ties.

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