New agreements between India and Bangladesh make it harder for criminals to flee – but easier for citizens to travel.
India and Bangladesh have inked two key agreements that will make it easier to apprehend criminals and terrorists, and allow citizens to travel more freely between the two countries.
Indian Home Minister S. K. Shinde and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir signed a long-awaited bilateral extradition treaty in Dhaka on January 28th. On the same day, they also agreed to Revised Travel Arrangements (RTA) that liberalised visa procedures.
International experts, economists and officials of both countries called the deals important steps forward in regional connectivity, economic development and border security.
"The mutual ties between India and Bangladesh have improved following the signing of the extradition treaty," Director General of Border Security Force (BSF) Subhash Joshi, who accompanied Shinde to Dhaka for his two-day visit, told Khabar South Asia.
"Now we can manage our borders more effectively and peacefully and, at the same time, will work in close co-operation with our counterpart – Bangladesh Rifles – in Bangladesh in curbing terrorism along the 4,096 km international border with the country," he said.
The extradition treaty applies to fugitives charged with murder and other serious crimes, but excludes political asylum seekers, those accused of political crimes and offenders sentenced to less than a year in jail.
India hopes it will yield the extradition of Anup Chetia, general secretary of the banned separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), and other rebel leaders in its troubled northeastern region.
"The new treaty will also help to demoralize the insurgent groups in the northeast, especially whose operatives have been using Bangladesh as their refuge during the last two decades," Joshi said. "Already, things are improving and several insurgent leaders have expressed their desire to lay down arms."
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told Khabar the treaty would "help us in restoring peace in Assam for once and all when the neighbouring government begins to deport the leaders of the rebel factions … Since long, we have been demanding the deportation of Anup Chetia and I hope Bangladesh will now hand him over to us, ignoring his plea for political asylum."
Bangladesh, meanwhile, can now seek Indian co-operation to track down two convicted killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's founder, who are believed to be hiding in India.
"The extradition treaty would now act as a legal framework, making it convenient for both countries to combat terrorism and criminal activities," Delwar Hossain, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told Khabar.
To date, criminals and terrorists from both sides of the border have taken liberal advantage of the lack of an extradition agreement. In 2011, Dhaka provided Delhi with a list of 100 Bangladeshi nationals charged with various crimes believed to have taken refuge in India. In return, Delhi provided a list of 50 Indian nationals alleged to be hiding in Bangladesh.
Revised Travel Arrangements
The RTA, meanwhile, paves the way for more communication between nationals of the two countries by easing restrictions on visits by tourists, businesspersons, officials, professionals, students, journalists and those in several other categories in both directions.
Under the visa pact, India would facilitate Bangladeshi students getting multiple-entry visas for five years and journalists for up to one year.
India has also agreed to waive the 60-day cooling period for the second visit by a Bangladeshi national. The restriction is at present applicable to citizens of Pakistan, China and some other countries.
According to the visa liberalisation agreement, businesspersons would get multiple-entry visas for five years. In medical-purpose cases, as many as three attendants of a patient would also be entitled to a visa, instead of one.
"This will increase people-to-people contact," Abdul Matlub Ahmad, president of India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Khabar. "History will confirm that such steps always lead to increases in trade and investment between the two nations. I believe Bangladesh will get larger Indian investment and will be able to increase its exports to India at a faster rate."
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Dhaka, referred to the landmark deals as a "good start". But to achieve significant mutual economic development, he said, "more liberalization and friendliness between the two countries is required".