India offers $1bn credit to Bangladesh

Dhaka gets largest-ever one-time assistance
Last Updated 11 January 2010, 18:50 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the credit line during the delegation-level talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, who is currently on a four-day tour to India. The credit line extended to Bangladesh is the largest ever one-time assistance by India to any country. It will be used in railway projects and for supplying locomotives, coaches and buses as well for infrastructure projects in Bangladesh.

The huge assistance seems to be India’s reward for Bangladesh for the latter’s tacit cooperation in catching key Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives and leaders of the insurgent outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) last month.

India and Bangladesh signed three treaties to augment cooperation in security and combating terrorism. These were: agreement on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, agreement on transfer of sentenced persons and agreement on combating international terrorism, organised crime and illicit drug trafficking.  The two countries also signed two Memorandums of Understanding for cooperation in the power sector and cultural exchange during 2010-12.

Hasina told Singh that her government would not allow Bangladesh to be used for terrorism against India, an assurance aimed at addressing a major concern of New Delhi about insurgents of northeastern states taking shelter across the border.

Singh said that India wanted to build a new future with Bangladesh. “The time has come to chart a new path. We are ready to pursue a bold vision for our relations, based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. Our two peoples want peace, security and prosperity. We should move forward to achieve these common goals for ourselves and for all the people of South Asia,” he said at the banquet he hosted in honour of the visiting Bangladeshi PM.

Bangladesh PM’s visit came just a few weeks after tacit cooperation between security agencies of the two countries led to the arrest of key LeT operative Thadiyantavide Nazir, who is suspected to be involved in the 2005 terrorist attacks in the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, and his associate Shafaz Shamsuddin as well as five top ULFA leaders, including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa.

Nazir and Shafaz were hiding in Bangladesh. So were the leaders of ULFA, which had since long been running a number of camps and training facilities in the neighbouring country.

As New Delhi and Dhaka do not have an extradition treaty; none of the two governments officially confirmed that the LeT operatives and ULFA leaders were arrested in Bangladesh. According to the official versions of New Delhi, they all were spotted by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel near the Indo-Bangla border in Tripura and Meghalaya and were subsequently arrested. Sources, however, said that the Bangladeshi sleuths picked them up and handed them over to the BSF.

The arrests of the LeT and ULFA men are seen in New Delhi as a significant milestone in bilateral cooperation in security and counter-terrorism measures that received a boost after the Awami League Government headed by Hasina came to power in Dhaka in December 2008. India also agreed to provide 250 MW of power from its Central grid to Bangladesh.

(Published 11 January 2010, 18:50 IST)

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