India seeks return of ‘wanted’ from Bangladeshi jails

September 1st, 2008 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Dhaka, Sep 1 (IANS) India has proposed to Bangladesh that a joint mechanism be set up to exchange each other’s prisoners so that they can serve the remaining period of their jail term in their own country.”Many of these prisoners are in our wanted list of insurgents and criminals. But it becomes very difficult to track them once they are released,” an official said in New Delhi Monday.

The proposal was made at the meeting of the home secretaries of the two countries in Dhaka last week.

Bangladesh is not keen to hand over prisoners before they complete their prison terms.

“Bangladesh has neither accepted nor rejected our proposals. It has said it wants more time to study them,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the Bangladeshi newspaper New Age quoted Bangladesh Home Secretary Abdul Karim as saying: “This will not be applicable to those who are in court custody.”

According to the newspaper, both Karim and his Indian counterpart Madhukar Gupta told reporters after the meeting that the proposed mechanism was to expedite exchange of prisoners who have completed their jail terms.

The new proposal floated by India “would mean that India wants back Anup Chetia, a rebel leader from Indian state of Assam now in Bangladesh’s jail”, the New Age newspaper said Monday.

Chetia, a top leader of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), was detained some years ago and jailed. On completion of his jail term, he was not returned to India.

A human rights body headed by the wife of a minister in the then Khaleda Zia government, campaigned against sending Chetia back to India. Dhaka then detained him under a new set of charges.

Officials sources said India has also suggested that a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) on the lines of one signed by the eight member countries of SAARC at the Colombo summit in August be put in place at the bilateral level between India and Bangladesh.

India is also keen to sign with Bangladesh an extradition treaty and another on exchange of information on counter-terrorism.

India has suggested that a Bangladeshi team of officials and experts should come to New Delhi soon for further discussions on the proposals made at the Dhaka meeting.

The New Age said India was told at the summit that Dhaka would consider an extradition treaty only as part of the SAARC grouping.

India and Bangladesh both need effective vigilance and tranquility along the porous border they share. Relations between border guards of the two countries have often been strained with frequent exchanges of fire and blame games for failure to stop infiltration and smuggling across the boundary.

According to New Delhi, Naga and Bodo insurgent groups that operate in the northeastern part of the country have over the years turned Bangladesh into a safe haven for their activities.

The sources said that though they do not expect steps from Bangladesh to curb movement of insurgents along the border, regular high-level exchanges, as the one that concluded in Dhaka Sunday, help the two sides to be a little more sensitive about each other’s concerns.

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