Bangladesh now joins 30-odd countries with which India has extradition treaties. New Delhi had long wanted such a treaty with Bangladesh. If it had not been signed earlier, that had much to do with Bangladesh’s domestic politics and its impact on its relations with India. The signing of the treaty now is a measure of the improved bilateral ties between the two countries. India’s fight against insurgent groups in the country’s Northeast had always been hamstrung by the absence of an extradition treaty with Dhaka. The rebels would often take shelter and train in camps inside Bangladesh. Even when some of their leaders were caught by Bangladeshi authorities, Dhaka could not hand them over to India because there was no extradition treaty. Other methods were sometimes used, but they lacked the legal sanction of an extradition treaty. With the signing of the treaty, therefore, New Delhi can hope to take Anup Chetia, the ‘general secretary’ of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom, who has been in jail in Dhaka for several years now. India’s anxiety over the absence of such a treaty deepened when terrorist groups mushroomed in Bangladesh a few years ago. But Dhaka too should benefit from such a treaty. It should strengthen its case that India must do enough to capture two of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s killers, who are supposed to be hiding in India.
Ultimately, it is all about mutual trust and co-operation between the two countries. Terrorist and criminal groups operating within Bangladesh were a threat not only to India’s security but also to peace and political stability in Bangladesh. There is no denying that India-Bangladesh relations have improved steadily since Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s return to power. But New Delhi cannot afford to take sides in Bangladesh’s domestic politics. Nor should it link the fortunes of bilateral ties to any particular party’s rule in Dhaka. The improvement of relations should be part of a holistic agenda irrespective of changes in Bangladesh’s domestic politics. Security issues are too important to be reduced to matters of partisan politics. It is no coincidence that the signing of the extradition treaty was accompanied by another agreement on liberalizing visa arrangements for certain groups of people. Mutual trust could be the key to resolving other knotty issues such as the sharing of river waters.