The 41-year-old India-Bangladesh passport regime in the Northeast and in West Bengal came to an end on Sunday following an instruction by the Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid to the concerned state governments.
Those who have been already a passport under the old system will be able to use it until the expiration date. This special passport, which allowed travel to Bangladesh with a locally issued visa, was introduced after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 for the easy movement of people between the two countries, reports TNN.
The passport was issued by the northeastern state governments with the consent of the regional passport offices in Kolkata, and the people of West Bengal and the Northeast could apply for it. The passport was availed mainly by businessmen and individuals who had family members and relatives in Bangladesh.
Thousands of people living in the northeastern states were born in Bangladesh and subsequently migrated to India in four phases — during the division of Bengal in 1905, the shifting of the capital of the British empire in India from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911, India’s Independence in 1947 and, finally, during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. These Bengali-speaking people of the northeastern states used the India-Bangladesh passport to visit Bangladesh frequently since most of them have relatives there.
“Availing an Indo-Bangla passport was very simple because it was issued at the local level through a diplomatic channel within 15 days of filing application,” said Tripura chief secretary S K Panda.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ (MEA) decision to end the India-Bangladesh passport regime has drawn sharp criticism from Tripura industries and commerce minister Jitendra Choudhury. He said this would create hindrance in the movement of people and businessmen between two countries, which will ultimately affect bilateral relations.
He said the Tripura government opposed the MEA’s move, but the ministry decided to discontinue with this passport regime from December 1 on security grounds. The Tripura government has taken up the matter with the MEA to continue issuing the passport until the proposed Mini Passport Service Centre is set up in Agartala.