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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sheikh Hasina ’s visit significant in the context of Northeast in particular

Special Correspondent

SILCHAR, Jan 13: The three-day visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Sheikh Hasina that concluded on Tuesday was quite significant in the context of Northeast in particular. The restoration of peace in the insurgency-hit region would not only pace up economic development but also boost abundant tourism. She reiterated after signing a deal with her Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh to fight terrorism jointly and “not to allow Bangladesh soil to be used by militant groups.” Her tough stand on the question of terrorism has to a great extent dampened the “muscle-flexing” by insurgents and the appreciable decline in violence on this side of the border is enough indication of it.

The bilateral ties focused primarily on fighting terrorism together and security connectivity. The next SAARC Summit, political observers believe, would take up the proposal of South Asia Task Force for combating the menace of terrorism, the concept which was articulated in her first press conference at Dhaka after assumption of power by Sheikh Hasina in December 2008. This would, however, depend upon the sincerity of Pakistan, the land of home-bred militancy.

The agreement signed between the two countries covered mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, transfer of sentenced persons and an understanding on fighting international terrorism or organized crime and illicit drug trafficking. This is expected to bring down cross-border crimes which often get stuck up in legal wrangling. On the crucial issue of repatriation of Anup Chetia, a top ULFA leader, his case being under legal scrutiny, a cautious approach has been adopted.

New Delhi is now expecting the detention of two other dreaded militant leaders – Ranjan Daimary of NDFB and Jeevan Singh of Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO).

It is not only ULFA militants but almost all the major and minor groups who have used Bangladesh as a haven to wreak violence in India. Rebels from several other Northeast States as well as Islamic militants in tandem with Pakistan-based extremist outfits and terrorists have operated from there to launch strikes. South Block is brimming with confidence that Hasina Government is positive to cooperate on neutralizing these elements.

Sheikh Hasina has no doubt been aware of the uneasiness in the opposition political camp in her country in the wake of her Delhi visit. BNP supremo and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia warned Hasina against signing any deal against the national interest such as any treaty to suppress Indian militants whom she used to describe as “freedom fighters.” She could not conceal her support for them when she said, “insurgencies by different Indian ethnic groups have become closely linked to our security. If Hasina signs a treaty to control Indian insurgents, the security of our own citizens will also be affected.”

But the massive mandate received by Sheikh Hasina in the general elections was a mandate for peace and development. She was aware of it and her BNP-led 14 party alliance secured 259 seats in the 300 member Parliament of Bangladesh. The fundamentalist and extremist forces represented by Jamiat-e-Islam and Islamic Aikya Jote backed by BNP were reduced to non-entity. One third of the voters who were exercising their franchise for the first time through their mandate for Awami League led front expressed their resentment against violence and bloodshed which rocked Bangladesh during the Khaleda Zia rule. New Delhi was also cautious in dealing with the question of militancy in view of the anti-Hasina rhetory in Bangladesh. It was, therefore, decided by South Block not to play into the hands of the forces inimical to the interests of the country. The only way to prevent Bangladesh again slipping back into the grip of fundamentalists was to help Hasina Government with liberal financial bonanza to fight poverty, the burning problem of that country. THE SENTINEL

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