Bangladesh, India to ink treaty

Pact may help Dhaka extradite ULFA leader Chetia soon
Last Updated 13 January 2010, 19:16 IST

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told mediapersons at the end of her four-day-tour to India on Wednesday: “We have signed three agreements. Discussions are also going on the extradition treaty.” The treaty is likely to make it easier for Bangladesh to hand over to India the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) general secretary, Anup Chetia.

General secretary of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League  party and Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam recently claimed to have evidences of a meeting between former Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf and Chetia in Dhaka in 2002. Chetia was arrested in Dhaka on December 21, 1997, for illegally entering and staying in Bangladesh as well as for illegally carrying foreign currencies and a satellite phone.

He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment by a court in Bangladesh. Though Chetia has already served his sentence in Bangladesh, he continues to be in detention at the Kashimpur Jail in Bangladesh.
India-friendly Awami League headed by Hasina was in power in Bangladesh when Chetia was arrested, but he could not be extradited particularly due to absence of an extradition treaty.

Islam claimed that the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party  government had facilitated the Musharraf-Chetia meeting, when the former Pakistani President had toured Dhaka.
India has since long been alleging that ULFA and other militant organisations in North-East had been receiving supports from Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence.
Bangladesh Prime Minister said Dhaka was ready to “go to any extent to cooperate” with New Delhi in the fight against the menace of terrorism. Hasina did not specify when the treaty could be signed.

But Foreign Minister Dipu Moni  told journalists that discussion on the treaty could be concluded shortly.

Other agreements
During Hasina’s visit to New Delhi, India and Bangladesh signed three agreements on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, transfer of sentenced persons and combating international terrorism, organised crime and illicit drug trafficking.
The Bangladesh Government clarified that the agreement for transfer of sentenced persons would not facilitate hand-over of Chetia to India, as the ULFA leader had already served his sentence.

Tacit cooperation between India and Bangladesh recently 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.
India, sources said, is keen to get Chetia in its custody for two reasons.
First, his interrogation could provide vital information about the role of Pakistan in fomenting troubles in Assam and other northeastern States.
Secondly, in the absence of ULFA’s elusive military chief Paresh Barua, Chetia could provide more legitimacy and credibility to the peace process that New Delhi wants to start with Rajkhowa and other incarcerated leaders of the outfit.
DH News Service

However, she added that since democratic governments were in place everywhere in the region, the countries could cooperate better in fight against terror.

To a query on anti-India mindset in Bangladesh, Hasina said that "perhaps that may remain. I cannot change that... But common people want better lives and if results are achieved (in India-Bangladesh cooperation), these sentiments will not work."

Hasina said anti-India sentiments in some quarters in Bangladesh were not new as these had been used even way back in the 1954 elections.

Making clear her high expectations from India, the Bangladesh Prime Minister said the "big" country with a "strong economy" should "look after all its neighbours at equal basis" while respecting their independence and sovereignty.

Describing India as a "natural friend" who had supported Bangladesh's liberation movement by training freedom fighters and hosting refugees, she said her visit here would "open new door and new era" in bilateral cooperation and boost the ties.
Asked to specify one single big thing that she was returning home with, she said, "friendship".

She said the Joint Communique issued yesterday amply demonstrated that Bangladesh was going to benefit.

On bilateral disputes like those related to border and water-sharing, Hasina said the two countries would be working to resolve these in a friendly and mutually-beneficial manner.
She said Bangladesh had decided to give transit facility to India as also Nepal and Bhutan to Chittagong and Mongla ports. In turn, India had agreed to grant transit facility to Bangladesh to Nepal and Bhutan.

Justifying the grant of transit by Bangladesh to India, she said in the present era, "one cannot keep doors closed."

(Published 13 January 2010, 06:45 IST)

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