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Treaty in January, Chetia to follow
- India, Bangladesh hold secretary-level talks, extradition pact draft shared

New Delhi, Nov. 21: The extradition treaty between India and Bangladesh is likely to be signed by January next year, making the handing over of Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia to India almost certain.

Bangladesh said in no uncertain terms today that fugitives like Chetia would be handed over to India “at the earliest”.

Chetia’s return, like the arrests in the past two years of several other militants from the Northeast who were sheltered for years in Bangladesh, will also not depend on the extradition treaty.

“The draft (of the extradition treaty) has been shared and the Bangladesh side will also need time to go through it, but it should be through in two months time...some time in January maybe,” said a senior Indian official.

He added, however, that Chetia could return to India even before an extradition treaty is signed.

This came out clearly during the 12th India-Bangladesh home secretary-level talks in New Delhi.

Bangladesh home secretary Monzur Hossain said there were legal tangles in the deportation of Chetia, who has been in a Bangladesh jail since 1997, but hinted that Dhaka was trying its best to co-operate with India.

“Legal matters are not in our hands (as) they are sub-judice. Once that is done, we will take appropriate action at the earliest,” Hossain told reporters at a joint briefing today with Union home secretary R.K. Singh. Hossain said Dhaka has zero tolerance for anti-India forces.

The legal tangle relates to Chetia applying to the United Nations refugee agency, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for a refugee status in a third country.

Indian officials expect that Chetia’s request will be turned down by the UN agency while the Bangladesh court, too, will not rule in the Ulfa leader’s favour.

Chetia is married and has a college-going son in Dhaka.

He was expected to be part of the recently signed pact with Ulfa but repeated feelers sent to him were rejected.

Singh said discussions on Chetia were on and New Delhi was happy with the status and the steps being taken by Bangladesh.

Dhaka has already handed over Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, self-styled deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua and foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury besides finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika and several others.

Bangladesh also helped India arrest National Democratic Front of Boroland chief Ranjan Daimary while Dhaka police snared Ulfa key man Antu Chowdang.

There is an arrest warrant against Paresh Barua who can now no longer enter Bangladesh.

Dhaka has also allowed India to construct fencing anywhere within the 150 yards area in 34 more verified vulnerable patches of land.

There are 46 vulnerable patches along the India-Bangladesh border from where infiltration and smuggling are possible. Dhaka had earlier allowed fencing in three of these patches.

“We consider Bangladesh to be one of our closest friends. In the past one-and-a-half years, our co-operation has been very close, very close indeed. We look forward to this co-operation and (want it) to continue,” he said.

Both sides also agreed to implement the co-ordinated Border Management Plan signed during the visit of Union home minister P. Chidambaram to Bangladesh in July this year and finalise the extradition treaty.

In the meeting, Bangladesh sought assistance from India in tracking, apprehending and handing over the killers of the architect of Bangladeshi independence, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the Indian side agreed to extend all possible co-operation, while seeking additional information in this regard.

“We hope that when more information will be available to the law enforcement agencies, they will be able to round them up and hand them over to Bangladesh. We appreciate India’s efforts,” Hossain said. Indian officials, however, feel that the assailants may be in Pakistan.

During the three-day consultations, the two countries agreed to operationalise the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, transfer of sentenced persons, Agreement on Combating Organised Crime and Illegal Drug Trafficking which were signed during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in January last year.

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