Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that the amendments to India’s citizenship law were unnecessary, Gulf News reported on Saturday. This is the first comment from Hasina since the controversial law, which has triggered massive protests across India, was cleared by Parliament in December.

“We don’t understand why [the Indian government] did it,” she told Gulf News during an interview in Abu Dhabi. “It was not necessary.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. In Northeastern states, demonstrators feel the Act will erode their ethnic identities by granting citizenship to foreigners on religious grounds.

Hasina called both the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens India’s internal affairs. “Bangladesh has always maintained that the CAA and NRC are internal matters of India,” she added. “The government of India, on their part, has also repeatedly maintained that the NRC is an internal exercise of India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in person assured me of the same during my visit to New Delhi in October 2019.”

The Bangladesh prime minister denied that minority communities left her country because of persecution. This is in direct contradiction to what Home Minister Amit Shah has maintained. During the debate in Parliament in December, Shah repeatedly referred to persecution faced by minority communities, mainly the Hindus, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Hasina added that there was no reverse migration from India either. “But within India, people are facing many problems,” she added.

Amid tension over the Citizenship Act, three Bangladesh ministers have cancelled their visits to India. On Saturday, Bangladesh Deputy Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam cancelled a scheduled visit to New Delhi to attend the Ministry of External Affairs’ annual Raisina Dialogue Conference from January 14 to 16.

Alam’s decision to not visit India came after Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen cancelled his three-day India visit on December 12 and a day later his Cabinet colleague, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan cancelled a scheduled personal visit to Meghalaya’s capital Shillong. Momen had also said the citizenship law and the citizens’ register were India’s “internal issues” but expressed concern that any uncertainty in India was likely to affect its neighbouring countries.