The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhaka militant deal under wraps

New Delhi, Oct. 28: India has been offered access to Bangladesh’s territory to inspect if there are any militant camps there but Dhaka is fighting shy of putting the ground-breaking gesture down in black and white.

Official sources said Dhaka has also taken up “seriously” Delhi’s demand that Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia be deported. After serving a jail term, Chetia is said to be still in Bangladesh.

Despite Dhaka’s reluctance to make a commitment in public, the twin offers, if carried through, could set the stage for one of the biggest foreign policy breakthroughs in the subcontinent and go a long way in tackling militancy in the Northeast.

Indian officials were toiling tonight to persuade Bangladesh to make the offer to grant access to its territory for inspections a part of a joint statement between their home secretaries.

Till late in the night, Bangladesh was reluctant to do so, possibly fearing a domestic backlash to what could be construed as “Indian interventionism” by hardliners there.

Journalists were alerted twice to stand by for a briefing on the two-day talks between home secretary V.K. Duggal and his Bangladesh counterpart Sarfaraz Hossain but it had to be put off as the talks dragged on. Duggal dismissed suggestions of a deadlock, saying the outcome would be “very positive”.

According to the minutes of a meeting, Dhaka has said Indian teams can visit and verify locations suspected to be housing militant camps.

The sources said Dhaka has signalled willingness to allow physical verification in places where Delhi suspects militant camps are located as it wants to iron out the thorny issue before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Bangladesh for the Saarc summit next month. The summit has already been postponed twice ' once because India declined to attend citing security reasons.

Indian officials present at the talks said the atmosphere was remarkably different from that at a recent meeting between Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and the Border Security Force (BSF).

The talks then had ended in acrimony with Bangladesh flatly denying the presence of anti-India militant camps on its soil. Dhaka had instead seen an Indian hand in the 400-odd blasts that had rocked Bangladesh.

The BSF had handed BDR a list of 190 to 200 camps belonging to militant groups like Ulfa, the Peoples’ Liberation Army, the All-Tripura Tiger Force and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation. The Indian force had also submitted photographic evidence to establish the claim.

The joint statement that is expected to be signed late tonight or tomorrow morning will record a forward movement in the talks. It is likely to put on record that India will be granted consular access to Indian prisoners in Bangladesh. Bangladesh will have a reciprocal understanding.

The two countries are also expected to suggest appointment of nodal officers to check trafficking of women and children, besides setting up a joint border working group.

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