Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dhaka to hand wanted separatist leader to India

Despite trade disputes and water-sharing spats, the two South Asian neighbours made remarkable strides in security co-operation in recent years.
By Shahriar Sharif for Khabar South Asia in Dhaka
October 20, 2012
An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) member scans a stretch of the India-Bangladesh border August 13th on the outskirts of Agartala in India's northeastern state of Tripura. The two nations are finalising an extradition treaty allowing each to turn over wanted criminals and terrorists. [Jayanta Dey/Reuters]
Bangladesh and India are drawing closer to inking an extradition treaty that would formally enable them to hand over wanted criminals and terrorists sheltering in their respective countries. The home secretaries of India and Bangladesh held two days of talks in Dhaka Monday and Tuesday (October 15th-16th) to share final drafts of the long-awaited treaty.

But even without such formal mechanisms and despite their differences on many other fronts, the two neighbours have shown a willingness to co-operate on certain security issues because violence has affected both countries so deeply.

In late September, more than two weeks before the latest round of extradition talks, Bangladesh announced it planned to hand over wanted separatist leader Anup Chetia, who has been languishing in a Bangladeshi prison for more than a decade.

"We are going to repatriate Anup Chetia by this December, and the process has already started," Bangladesh Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir recently confirmed to Khabar South Asia.

Leader of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Chetia was arrested in Dhaka in 1997 and sentenced in 2000 to five years in prison for illegal entry and possession of fake passports. He has remained in custody in Bangladesh ever since.

A member of the Indian delegation attending the recent talks in Dhaka voiced his country's pleasure at the decision.

"We are happy with the proactive attitude of Bangladesh towards countering terrorism in this region," Shambhu Singh, joint secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, told Khabar. It has finally agreed to hand over Anup Chetia to us by the end of 2012 and sought some time to finalise and sign the extradition treaty with India."

Even if the treaty is not signed by December due to technical and legal complications, Chetia's transfer could well go ahead via an informal mechanism.

He could be released along the border and immediately picked up by the Indian Border Security force (BSF) members, who would be alerted beforehand by Bangladesh authorities.

This unwritten formula has been applied in the past two years to more than two dozen wanted terrorists handed over to the authorities in both countries.

To reciprocate Dhaka's gesture, New Delhi expressed its willingness to deal with Bangladeshi fugitives living in India.

"We're also working to catch the criminals and will take appropriate action," BSF chief U. K. Bansal told reporters in Dhaka last month after meeting his Bangladesh counterpart.

Bangladesh has particularly sought the extradition of Risaldar Moslehuddin and Captain Majed, both believed to be hiding in India. In 1998 they were sentenced to death in absentia along with ten others for murdering Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's founder and father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Although bilateral disputes over trade tariffs, border issues and water sharing remain unresolved, Dhaka and New Delhi have made considerable progress in fighting terrorism.

"Terrorism is not an India or Bangladesh problem. It is now an issue afflicting the entire South Asia and even the world," Mohiuddin Ahmed, a former diplomat, told Khabar.

"It is in their own self-interest that they have come together to fight the menace, despite the fact that they have not been able to resolve some major bilateral issues."

Another area where the two countries have made some progress is in fighting drug smuggling. In recent times, India, acceding to Bangladesh's request, has dismantled many illegal factories along its border manufacturing Phensedyl, a syrup widely used as an intoxicant by Bangladeshi youth.

"We gave them a list of 79 illegal Phensedyl manufacturing factories across the border last year and India has dismantled most of them," Mohammad Iqbal, Director General of Narcotics Control Department, told Khabar.

He said this year another list of 62 such factories has been given to Indian authorities, who promised to take action.

"Their co-operation has really helped us a lot to crack down on Phensedyl use among the youth largely because the smuggling of the syrup has been drastically reduced," Iqbal told Khabar.

Chandan Das in Jamshedpur contributed to this article.

Dhaka to hand wanted separatist leader to India 

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