Taken aback by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) direct dialogue with the Assam government on Bangladesh visa issue, the Union home ministry on Monday rejected its proposal to grant visa-on-arrival to Bangladeshi nationals under the age of 18 and above the age of 65.
The home ministry, however, agreed to the proposal of giving long-term visas to Bangladeshis of the same age group - on the condition that there are arrangements in place and readiness on Bangladesh side to report to the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices.
Circumventing the home ministry that deals with centre-state relations, the MEA on June 19 had circulated the proposal included in an internal discussion paper to Assam government seeking its views, sources said. It was part of the tentative agenda for discussion during the visit of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to Bangladesh between June 25-27 and included points taken from the earlier meetings, including those held during the UPA's tenure, sources said.
The paper gave an opportunity to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, known for having a soft corner for Bangladeshis in the past, to raise the issue of nationalism. In an apparent move to gain political mileage out of it, Gogoi debunked the idea as a dangerous move compromising national security and put the blame on the BJP-led Union government for moving the proposal to grant visa-free entry to Bangladeshi nationals.
Gogoi said the Assam government strongly opposed the proposal on the ground that illegal migration from Bangladesh was a very sensitive issue for Assam and other North-Eastern states.
In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had to face drubbing in Assam for being soft on Bangladeshi illegal migrants.
Under the current system, Bangladeshi nationals get multiple-entry visa for one year and the proposal is to extend the facility up to five years.