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Bangla denies India move on influx

Guwahati, Dec. 1: India has never raised the issue of cross-border illegal migration with Dhaka. This was revealed by a delegation of 12 Bangladeshi MPs who reached here today.

“In principle, Bangladesh strictly opposes any kind of illegal migration to India. The current government and erstwhile governments in Bangladesh had never encouraged migration. We are aware that the illegal migration is a burning issue in Assam and former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi signed an accord to solve the problem. But the Indian government has never taken up the issue officially with its counterpart in Bangladesh,” Tofail Ahmed, a sitting MP of the Awami League, told reporters.

Ahmed said his country was ready to discuss the issue for a mutually acceptable solution but the initiative has to be taken by India.

On whether Bangladesh would take back its citizens who entered Assam illegally after 1971, Ahmed said the issue has to be discussed at the highest level in his country.

Bangladesh has been accused of not accepting illegal migrants deported by Indian authorities on the ground that it does not have a deportation treaty with India.

The revelation of the Bangladesh MPs assumes significance at a time when organisations like the All-Assam Students’ Union are reviving the anti-foreigners movement, which continued between 1979 and 1985.

“The issue of illegal migration will in no way have an adverse impact on the friendly relationship between India and Bangladesh. If the issue is harming the interest of India it should take it up with our country. We are also totally opposed to illegal migration,” Tarana Halim, another sitting MP, said.

Ahmed expressed hope that top Ulfa leader Anup Chetia, currently lodged in a jail in Bangladesh, would be handed over to India soon.

Chetia was arrested in Bangladesh in 1997 and is under detention on completion of his seven-year jail term for cross-border intrusion, carrying fake passports and illegally keeping foreign currencies. Though the Ulfa leader has completed his prison term, he is still being held in jail in line with a Bangladeshi High Court directive in August 2003 to keep him in safe custody until the government makes a decision on his prayer seeking political asylum in Bangladesh.

“The Bangladesh government is in the process of finalising an agreement of extradition with India to hand over Chetia. The Shaikh Hasina government is committed and will not allow Bangladesh to be a shelter for Indian rebels. All rebels will be uprooted from the country,” Ahmed said.

The Bangladesh MPs, who reached New Delhi on Thursday to participate in Ficci’s India-Bangladesh parliamentary dialogue, will meet chief minister Tarun Gogoi tomorrow.

“The northeastern states have great potential to develop trade relations with Bangladesh. The northeastern states and Bangladesh can expect a great future through such trade,” barrister Moudud Ahmed, a sitting MP from Bangladesh National Party, said.