Bangladesh to Extradite Anup Chetia
The highlight of the just-concluded home secretary level talks between India and Bangladesh has been the Awami League government’s decision to extradite senior ULFA leader Anup Chetia to India. The government officials of both the countries have made significant progress on the extradition of the ULFA leader. Bangladesh Senior Home Secretary Mozammel Haque Khan said, “We have expressed our willingness to return him…. He will be returned soon”. The two sides decided that Chetia be returned under a special mechanism beyond an existing extradition treaty.
The long-pending issue of the detained ULFA leader was earlier discussed during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s Dhaka visit in June. New Delhi pressed for Chetia’s deportation as he has already expressed his desire to return. ULFA’s founding general secretary was arrested in Bangladesh in 1997 and subsequently sentenced to seven years imprisonment for cross-border intrusion, carrying fake passports and illegally keeping foreign currencies. Chetia has completed his prison term and but is still lodged in jail as Bangladesh High Court issued a directive in August 2003 to keep him in safe custody until the Bangladesh government takes a decision on his plea seeking political asylum in the country. The pro-talk faction of the insurgent outfit led by Arabinda Rajkhawa has been seeking his return as the surrendered leaders believe that Chetia’s participation would add impetus to the peace dialogue.
In addition to Chetia’s extradition, several other key issues were discussed by the home secretaries of two countries on September 2-4 in Dhaka. The issues covered in the bilateral talks included border management, trafficking of arms and drugs, trafficking in women and children, repatriation of criminals, border demarcation, Land Boundary Agreement (LBA),Interpol mechanism, illegal trespassing, fake currency, reopening of immigration points and training of Bangladeshi security personnel. Indian Home Secretary Anil Goswami and his Bangladesh counterpart also reviewed progress and implementation of existing protocols and agreements.
Bangladesh pressed India to ratify the long overdue 1974 Mujib-Indira LBA and related Land Boundary Protocol of 2011 to expedite the exchange of enclaves. Indian home secretary said his country is keen to implement the LBA with Bangladesh, for which a constitutional amendment is required. The Modi government is likely to place the bill on Land Boundary Protocol in the next session of parliament for ratification. The Indian side informed Bangladesh that it’s Parliamentary Affairs Committee has been preparing a bill to be placed before the Rajya Sabha.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on tackling human trafficking, particularly women and children, rescuing victims, repatriation and rehabilitation could not be signed as it has to be approved by the Indian cabinet. The Bangladesh has already given its approval for signing the MoU.
During the bilateral talks, Bangladesh side renewed its request to New Delhi to send back two absconding killers of Sheikh Mujib—former army captain Mazed and Rislader Muslehuddin, reportedly hiding in India. Home Secretary Goswami said Indian intelligence agencies so far have not found any trace of the killers of Bangladesh’s founding father. But he assured Dhaka that Indian agencies would go after the killers if Bangladesh provided specifics of their whereabouts in India. New Delhi also assured Dhaka that steps would be taken for immediate extradition of Bangladeshi absconder Nur Hussain, the prime accused in a multiple-murder case. He was arrested by West Bengal Police recently.
Dhaka once again expressed serious concern over killing of Bangladeshi civilians by BSF and urged India to hand over anyone indulging in cross-border crimes to the law enforcement agencies of either side instead of killing them. The issue was raised at the 14th meeting of Bangladesh-India Joint Working Group on security issues. Bangladesh Additional Home Secretary Kamal Uddin Ahmed said, “We told our Indian counterparts that border killings can not go on. Both the sides have agreed to place the proposal that anyone found involved in cross-border crimes should be handed over to the law enforcement agencies of the either side. This way such killings could be avoided”.
Despite Indian government’s repeated assurance to Dhaka that it would not allow its BSF to use lethal weapons along the border to make sure that no Bangladeshi nationals were killed, such incidents continue unabated. Bangladesh’s human rights watch dog Odhikar says that BSF killed over 1000 Bangladeshi civilians since 2000.
The BSF officials on the other hand claimed that they fired to defend themselves. They also reiterated that the killing along the border had come down drastically. The Indian side emphasised the need of holding meetings between deputy commissioners of bordering districts. Besides, Home Secretary Goswami expressed India’s willingness to train members of Bangladesh police at Hyderabad Police Training Centre. Moreover, India is ready to offer similar facility to Bangladesh Border Guards and coastguards.
It was the first India-Bangladesh home secretaries meeting since the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office on May 26. Such talks are held once in a year alternatively in New Delhi and Dhaka. The last meeting was held in New Delhi on July 19, 2013, where two home secretaries reaffirmed commitment not to allow the territory of either country to be used for any activity inimical to each other’s interests.