Sept. 16: Bangladesh today stonewalled India's proposal for a joint crackdown on militant camps in each other's territory as the neighbours began discussing ways to deal with cross-border militancy and illegal infiltration.
Although trading of allegations was very much a part of the first day's talks between the home secretaries of the two countries, the two sides agreed to salvage their ebbing relationship.
In the first meeting between the two sides in four years in Dhaka, India's Dhirendra Singh placed the offer for joint action before his counterpart Mohammed Omar Farooq.
Singh was accompanied by, among others, Bengal's home secretary Amit Kiran Deb. This is the first time that a state's home secretary has been asked to participate in such bilateral talks.
'It is not possible for me to comment today since there would be a joint declaration on Friday,' Deb told The Telegraph from Dhaka.
The two sides accepted the immediate need to create an atmosphere for better regional cooperation, starting with more frequent talks between the two border forces.
But sources associated with the talks said each side accused the other of sheltering fugitives.
India insisted that insurgent groups like the Ulfa run more than 190 camps inside Bangladesh where militants are also trained in guerrilla warfare and pressed Dhaka to dismantle them and hand over at least a dozen rebel leaders.
Names of wanted leaders like the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation's Jeevan Singha and Ulfa's Paresh Barua and Anup Chetia came up during the discussions, sources in the external affairs ministry said.
They said the Indian delegation expressed disappointment at Dhaka's continuous denials that there were rebel camps in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh said it was dismayed at the Indian refusal to take action against some India-based organisations that have been campaigning for a Swadhin Bangabhumi. Dhaka claims there are 79 insurgent camps operating from India, trying to de-stabilise Khaleda Zia's coalition government.
A home ministry official said Dhaka gave India a list of anti-Bangladesh elements and criminals allegedly involved in carrying out terrorist acts inside Bangladesh.
'Both sides have so many allegations against each other that a resolution is difficult to come by soon,' said a source associated with the talks.
Singh, however, said the first day's talks on an action plan to deal with cross-border militancy and illegal migration were 'very constructive'. He said the two sides would discuss 'more concrete matters' tomorrow.
Bangladesh foreign minister M. Morshed Khan said he did not think relations between the two countries had chilled. Rather, they had been improving, he said.
Bengal took up two issues. First, how Bangladeshi criminals along with illegal immigrants were taking shelter for the last few years in the safer confines of its territory. Second, the problem of militant groups active in Bengal finding safe haven across the border.