The recent handing over of Ranjan Daimary to India by the authorities in Bangladesh is one more signal to insurgents in the North-East that they can no longer look to that country to provide them sanctuary. The Bodo militant, who leads a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, is alleged to have masterminded the October 30, 2008 serial bomb attacks in Assam that killed more than 80 people. Just five months ago, in December 2009, Bangladesh similarly delivered the leader of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom, Arabinda Rajkhowa, along with one of his deputies, Raju Barua, to the Indian authorities, and a month earlier, two other top-rung leaders of ULFA were handed over. That leaves only ULFA's military chief Paresh Barua on the loose, while Anup Chetia, another top leader of the group, is in jail in Bangladesh. The issue of the North-East insurgent groups setting up cross-border bases was a major factor behind the difficult relationship India has had with its eastern neighbour through most of this decade. The turnaround can be credited directly to the willingness of the Sheikh Hasina government, elected in December 2008, to accommodate New Delhi's concerns on this matter and to formalise security cooperation. Prime Minister Hasina's visit to New Delhi earlier this year saw the two countries sign agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, mutual transfer of convicted prisoners, and cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, organised crime, and illegal drug trafficking. New Delhi and Dhaka are now also discussing an extradition treaty.
The government should lose no time in putting to use the advantage it has secured with the arrests of these five high-profile North-East militants representing two of the most dogged and violent insurgencies in the region. It has provided an unprecedented opportunity to find lasting peace in Assam. With Mr. Daimary's arrest, the main obstacle to the dialogue that New Delhi has already initiated with a pro-talks faction of the NDFB is out of the way. The process should be able to go ahead without fear of disruption. With ULFA too, the government has a clear upper hand. That Mr. Paresh Baruah still remains outside presents a complication but the government can make him irrelevant by setting in motion a carefully thought out peace process with those of the group's leaders who genuinely want to talk and are clear that the issue of sovereignty is not up for negotiation.