Day 86 – Q 1. Do you think the implementation of a nationwide NRC would jeopardise India’s relations with her neighbours? Critically examine.
1. Do you think the implementation of a nationwide NRC would jeopardise India’s relations with her neighbours? Critically examine.
क्या आपको लगता है कि एक राष्ट्रव्यापी एनआरसी के कार्यान्वयन से उसके पड़ोसियों के साथ भारत के संबंध खतरे में पड़ जाएंगे? समालोचनात्मक जांच करें।
Recently, according to the ministry of external affairs, India has reached out to countries across the world on the issues of the new citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens as fears were being expressed that India’s implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the whole country could hamper its relations with its neighbours especially Bangladesh.
- The National Register of Citizens (NRC) holds all the important information of the Indian citizens required for their identification which will be maintained by the Government of India. The legal framework for NRC is laid down in the Citizenship Act of 1955 as amended in 2004.
- In this regard, the implementation of a nationwide NRC would not jeopardise India’s relations with her neighbours due to the following factors:
- NRC exercise would be completely an internal matter of India and as a sovereign nation which respects others sovereignty, India has every right to carry out actions internally, which it deems fit.
- Illegal immigration from Bangladesh, comprising both Hindus and Muslims, is an important issue from the national security perspective of India. A large number of Bangladeshi immigrants are illegally living in India. Bilateral dealings of such an important issue thus becomes important.
- The issue is further complicated as sometime back, the Rohingya refugees originally from Myanmar started infiltrating into India through Bangladesh. Association of some rohingyas with terrorist organisations makes it an internal security for India and needs to be dealt with concerned parties where relations will stabilise with resolution of the problem.
- Bangladesh has already documented its citizens and maintains a biometric record of them. The National Identity Registration Wing (NIDW) was created within the Bangladesh Election Commission for that purpose. India too is justified in undertaking a similar exercise. This will help India get a grip on the problem.
- Once the documentation of citizens is done in India, both sides can share their database. This will help manage the problem in a much more amicable manner. As the India-Bangladesh relationship is currently strong and trust levels on both sides are high, this is the right time to deal with the issue of illegal migration.
- As the NRC exercise would help in establishing a detailed database of citizens for India, it would help in dealing with illegal immigration and as the issue of illegal immigration is concerning majorly only with India-Bangladesh relations, India’s relations with its other neigbhbours would largely be unaffected.
At the same time, many have argued that NRC exercise would jeopardized India’s relations with its neighbours in the following manner:
- The partition of India along religious lines had left India with extraordinary challenges about sustaining religious harmony at home and maintaining reasonable relations with Pakistan and Bangladesh. This Pandora’s box would open again affecting relations, especially with Bangladesh.
- India’s Neighbourhood first and Act East policy could be affected as a result of the NRC exercise and its outcomes where Bangladesh and Myanmar might face the inflow of disenfranchised people from India.
- Regional destabilization could create serious ramifications not just for South Asia, but the wider Indo-Pacific as well. Bangladesh is already struggling under the weight of the refugee crisis of the Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar — any added people movement would be beyond its capacity to facilitate and require a significant international response.
- The rhetoric of minority persecution in neighbouring countries embedded in CAA-NRC exercise would certainly affect India’s image and relations with concerned neighbours.
- This phenomenon is in line with the growing global trend where internal matters are affecting countries relations with others and in case of India, Bangladesh is clearly affected as India would handover illegal immigrants to it after the NRC exercise.
- China would certainly try to exploit the faultlines between India and its neighbours emerging out of the NRC exercise. This would help it in its string of pearls strategy against India in India’s neighbourhood.
The issue of illegal migration in the neighbourhood relationships cannot be swept under the carpet. It will continue to be a stumbling block in the sustenance of a stable relationship. It will be better if all sides look at the issue dispassionately especially when the trust levels are high.
Thus, India, as a country which follows the ideology of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, should not be hasty in taking decisions that can disenfranchise her citizens – contradicting its centuries-followed values. The need of the hour is that the Union Government should clearly chart out the course of action with all the stakeholders involved.
Additional Information – The long-standing issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh should be seen in the context of a report of the Group of Ministers on National Security, submitted in 2001, which estimated that post-1971 approximately 12 million Bangladeshis have illegally migrated into various states of northeast India. However, this number is expected to be much larger if one includes the illegal Bangladeshi population residing in other parts of India. Moreover, the Bangladeshis have been illegally coming to India even after 2001.