PM Modi’s Visit to Bangladesh Deferred Over Coronavirus Fears: MEA

The year-long celebrations were to open amid festivities at National Parade Ground in Dhaka on 17 March.

3 min read
Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and PM Narendra Modi.

PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh next week at the invitation of PM Sheikh Hasina is being deferred, ANI reported on Monday, 9 March, quoting the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The MEA said that they had received a formal notification from the Bangladesh government stating that a decision has been taken to defer the public events being organised to celebrate the birth centenary celebrations of its founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, after three coronavirus cases were detected in the country.

PM Modi was scheduled to attend this event.

The MEA said that the deferment also applies to the large gathering planned for 17 March, at which PM Modi was invited, adding that the Bangladesh government had informed them that fresh dates for these events would be conveyed later.

The year-long celebrations were scheduled to be declared open during the massive festivities at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka on 17 March.

Planned Celebrations Rearranged: Foreign Minister

“The planned celebrations for the Mujib Year have been rearranged in view of worldwide outbreak of coronavirus,” PTI quoted Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen as saying.

"We will convey about the rearrangement of the planned opening of the celebrations to the foreign dignitaries, leaving it to them if they would come," Momen added.

His made these remarks after attending a meeting on the 'Mujib Year' celebrations chaired by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, according to PTI.

Hasina directed the organisers to scale down the planned festivities, but the new venue for the inauguration of the celebrations is yet to be decided, chief coordinator of the celebration committee Kamal Abdul Naser told reporters.

Along with Modi, Bangladesh has also invited former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to address an extraordinary parliamentary session to mark the celebrations.

Naser said the foreign dignitaries were now expected to join the Mujib Year celebrations at a convenient time during the year-long celebrations.

Bangladesh on Sunday reported three cases of coronavirus. Two persons, who had returned from Italy, infected the third one on their return, officials said.

The infections, the first reported cases in the country, have come four days after Dhaka restricted entry of the people from major coronavirus-prone countries without a virus-free medical certificate.

Plan for Bilateral Talks With Sheikh Hasina

During the visit, Prime Minister Modi was expected to assuage Bangladesh's concerns over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the NRC, PTI quoted sources in New Delhi as saying.

PM Modi was also planning to hold bilateral talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart and Mujib's daughter.

Last week, people held protests in Dhaka and other districts against the Indian government and PM Modi over the new citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The protesters demanded that Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Hasina call off PM Modi's visit.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla was in Bangladesh earlier this month and during his visit, he had assured Bangladesh that the updation of the National Register of Citizens will have "no implications" for its people, asserting that it is a process that is "entirely internal" to the country.

In December last year, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Home Minister Khan had cancelled their visits to India over the situation following the passage of the citizenship bill by Parliament.

Dhaka was also ostensibly upset following the roll out of the NRC in Assam even as India conveyed to it that the issue was an internal matter of the country.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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