India and Bangladesh today signed a liberalised visa agreement and a landmark extradition treaty that would pave the way for the deportation of jailed ULFA 'general secretary' Anup Chetia and other wanted "criminals".
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde signed the agreement with his Bangladeshi counterpart Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir at the end of their bilateral talks, which also yielded a "revised travel arrangement" under which New Delhi as well as Dhaka eased their visa regimes under several categories.
"These contracts will enhance ties in areas of security... and people to people contacts," Shinde told a joint press conference after signing the deals here.
The extradition deal was inked hours after Bangladesh cabinet approved its draft a week after the Indian cabinet took the identical decision clearing the inking of the pact.
Officials said the treaty would not be applied for the persons accused with the offenses of political character.
Under the provisions of the agreement, only persons charged with murders, culpable homicide and other serious offenses would come under the purview of the deal.
However, offenders of small crimes awarded with imprisonment for less than one year will not be covered d under the treaty.
Asked for the names of the wanted people likely to be extradited under the just signed deal, Shinde said the list should not be made public for procedural reasons.
He said New Delhi would extend its maximum cooperation in tracking down and handing over the fugitive convicts of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman murder trail as they were believed to be hiding in India.
Alamgir, however, said the deal would benefit Bangladesh more as the number of convicted or suspected criminals hiding or staying in India was more than that of Indian criminals lodged in jails or hiding in Bangladesh.
Replying to a question about the prospect of extraditing Chetia, Alamgir said the matter was now pending before the Supreme Court.
Chetia has sought Supreme Court intervention after Dhaka rejected his petition seeking asylum in Bangladesh after his arrest more than a decade ago.
India has been pressing for Chetia's deportation since long. The ULFA leader has been in a Dhaka jail following his arrest in 1997 on the charge of entering Bangladesh without valid documents.
Alamgir, however, cited the provision of keeping political asylum seekers out of the purview of the treaty and added that once the Supreme Court directive was issued the government would take an appropriate decision.
The press briefing was told that under the revised travel arrangements, a previous provision of restricting visits for tourism within two months was waived.
Indian officials said the restriction was still valid for several countries including Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.
The new provision allowed issuance of multiple entry visas for one year compared to previous three months on medical grounds while for education purpose the visa period was extended for five years which previously was for two years and extendable on year to year basis.
Asked about killings of Bangladeshis in frontiers by Indian boarder guards despite repeated assurance from higher political levels in New Delhi, Shinde acknowledged the incidents and called them "unfortunate".
"(Such) killings should not take place ... this should not be repeated," the Indian minister said.
A joint statement issued after the briefing said both sides agreed to increase number of coordinated border patrols under the earlier agreed Coordinated Border Management Plan would enhance cooperation between the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and India's Border Security Force (BSF).