India and Bangladesh are likely to firm up modalities of repatriation of ULFA militant Anup Chetia from Bangladesh and two Bangladeshi criminals Subrata Bain and Sajjad Hossain from Indian jails during the India visit of the Bangladesh home secretary on July 18. Media reports indicate that most of the paperwork required for the exchange has been done in both countries. Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni is scheduled to visit New Delhi on July 25 to firm up the agenda for the visit of prime minister Sheikh Hasina. While Dhaka has sought repatriation of Bain and Hossain for their involvement in an attack on a rally of Sheikh Hasina in 2004, New Delhi wants Chetia to hold face-to-face talks with ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and its finance secretary, Chitrabon Hazarika, who favour peaceful negotiations with Indian authorities.
Since Sheikh Hasina took office as prime minister in January 2009, her government has adopted a policy of zero tolerance with Indian insurgents and facilitated arrests of many top leaders holed up in Bangladesh. Besides Rajkhowa and Hazarika, ULFA’s deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury as well as National Democratic Front of Bodoland chief Ranjan Daimary and Garo National Liberation Army head C R Sangma have been handed over to Indian authorities after 2009.
The latest exchange has acquired a political salience in the backdrop of general elections in Bangladesh due next year and is likely to be used by the ruling Awami League to bolster its prospects. Without interfering in internal issues of Bangladesh, New Delhi will do well to expedite the process to strengthen secular and democratic forces in that country. The India factor has always figured as an issue in electoral politics of Bangladesh and India should do everything possible to solve outstanding irritants in bilateral relations like Teesta water-sharing, exchange of enclaves and tensions between the border security forces of the two nations.