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Delhi asks for Chetia again

New Delhi, Feb. 26: India has made a formal request to Bangladesh to hand over Ulfa leader Anup Chetia so that he can be extradited to Delhi.

The request, in the form of a note verbale, was made to the Bangladeshi foreign ministry yesterday by the Indian high commission in Dhaka.

This is the second time in a week that India has formally asked Bangladesh to hand over Chetia.

The Ulfa leader's prison sentence in Bangladesh ended yesterday, but so far there has been no formal response from Dhaka on whether he will be handed over to India or allowed to stay in Bangladesh.

Sources said Bangladesh has informally told Indian officials that Chetia has filed an appeal for asylum in Bangladesh. It is now before a local court and a final decision on his extradition can be taken only after the hearing is over and the court gives its ruling.

But South Block sees this as yet another attempt on Bangladesh's part to 'buy time'.

Officials of the foreign ministry have made it clear that India has very little hope that Bangladesh will act in any serious manner to hand over Chetia to Delhi.

'The Bangladeshi tactics are aimed at buying time and by dragging its feet on our request for extradition, it only wants to prolong the issue before it dies down,' a senior Indian diplomat said.

India's relations with Bangladesh, which are already under strain in the wake of Delhi's decision to stay away from the Saarc summit in Dhaka, will worsen if the neighbour refuses to hand over Chetia.

But for the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), it is not going to be an easy decision either. If it hands over Chetia to India, it will be seen domestically as cowering down to Indian pressure, particularly at a time when many in Bangladesh are extremely unhappy with Delhi for scuttling the Saarc summit.

However, Indian officials pointed out that Dhaka's stand on the issue raises serious doubts about its sincerity to fight terrorism on one hand and improving relations with Delhi on the other.

They argue that the BNP government continues to make statements in the local media, saying that Chetia will not be handed over to India. But after making such statements, they fall back on news reports to justify why handing over the Ulfa leader will be difficult for the government.

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