Friends in need

Recent arrests of Lashkar-e-Taiba bomb expert Abdul Karim Tunda and Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal show the close relationship shared by Indian police and intelligence establishment with their Nepali friends when it comes to handling terrorists and criminals.

Despite no official confirmation from both sides it is now amply clear that Tunda and Bhatkal who are shown as arrested on the Indo-Nepal border were in fact arrested in Nepal by the country’s security agencies and handed over to their Indian friends.

Media reports in both countries quoting unnamed intelligence and police sources mention that Tunda was nabbed in Kathmandu and Bhatkal and his associate Asadullah Akhtar were rounded up from near Pokhara, a tourist town located 200km away from the capital.

Apparently Tunda was under surveillance of intelligence sleuths from the moment he landed in Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu earlier last month. He was arrested while coming out of a mosque located in the heart of the city.

Similarly Bhatkal and Asadullah who were masquerading as Unani doctors were also under observation. A large sum sent by Bhatkal to his wife in India through normal banking channels as an Eid gift last month was what alerted Indian agencies and gave him away.

Tunda and Bhatkal may be the most prominent terrorists to have been arrested in Nepal but they are not the only ones. In the past Nepali authorities have arrested many insurgents and terrorists of all hues and secretly handed them over to the Indian side.

Criminals from both sides are also routinely exchanged without anything on records to show that they were nabbed on the other side of the border.

The reason for secrecy in arrests and handover to the other side is due to the absence of a new extradition treaty between both neighbours.

India has been insisting for many years on signing it citing security reasons. But Nepal’s prolonged political transition and instability where there are differences among political players on tenets of the treaty has delayed it.

Since both neighbours are committed not to allow activities detrimental to the interests of the other on their soils, lack of an extradition treaty hasn’t affected transfer of criminals and terrorists from one country to another.

Arrests and transfer of Tunda and Bhatkal would have been a lot more difficult had there been no active help from Nepali authorities.

Though they may officially deny the arrests taking place on their soil, Nepali authorities are very much in sync with their Indian counterparts on curbing crime and terror in both nations and along the porous Indo-Nepal border.

After all that’s what friends are for.

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