• Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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More joint BGB-BSF night patrols to stop border deaths

  • Published at 10:04 pm December 25th, 2020
BGB Director General Shafeenul Islam and BSF counterpart Rakesh Asthana during DG-level talks between the two border forces at Guwahati, Assam in India Courtesy

BGB asks BSF to eliminate insurgent group hideouts in India’s Mizoram

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and the Indian Border Security Force have agreed to intensify joint patrols in vulnerable areas at night, to prevent smuggling and border deaths.

BGB have also officially requested that BSF destroy armed insurgent groups setting up camps and hideouts in India’s Mizoram.

During a high-level conference of the two border forces on Friday, BGB Director General Shafeenul Islam officially voiced concerns over the presence of camps belonging to armed insurgent groups of Chittagong Hill Tracts in Mizoram state, and requested cooperation from BSF to destroy the camps.

In response, BSF DG Rakesh Asthana reaffirmed India’s zero tolerance policy for criminals and assured that necessary action will be taken if any such camps are found.

The five-day-long director general-level border coordination conference is set to end on Saturday.

The border talks began on December 22 at Guwahati, Assam of India with the aim of discussing bilateral and security related issues. BGB DG Maj Gen Shafeenul Islam is leading the 11-member Bangladesh delegation while BSF DG Rakesh Asthana is leading the 12-member Indian delegation.

For the past several decades, BSF has regularly handed over a list of Indian insurgent and terror groups to the BGB during DG-level talks and sought action against them. However, Bangladesh has raised the issue this time, as criminals are allegedly hiding in Tripura and Mizoram, opposite Khagrachari and Bandarban of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Joint night patrols to intensify in vulnerable areas

The Border forces of Bangladesh and India have decided to intensify joint patrols in vulnerable areas at night, as part of initiatives to bring border deaths down to zero.

After discussing incidents of smuggling, border patrols, killings on the border and confidence building measures, both the forces identified some regions where initiatives will be taken to prevent smuggling and other crimes in order to reduce the risk of civilians being killed by security forces.

Border forces of the two countries issued a press statement after signing a joint record of discussions during the five-day coordination conference.

During the meeting, the BGB chief voiced concerns over deaths and assaults of Bangladeshi citizens at the border. The forces will work together to reduce the number of border deaths to zero, and the BSF DG has assured that necessary initiatives will be taken to bring down border deaths.

BGB Director General Shafeenul Islam and BSF counterpart Rakesh Asthana during DG-level talks between the two border forces at Guwahati, Assam in India Courtesy

Besides joint patrols, both sides also decided to intensify awareness campaigns in vulnerable border areas, and to initiate more socio economic activities in the areas.

The year 2020 has witnessed the highest number of killings of Bangladesh nationals along the border by the Indian border force in the last 10 years, even after Delhi's repeated assurance that border deaths would be brought down to zero.

The BGB chief told the press conference in India on Friday that three persons were killed on the Indian side in 2018, as compared to 35 and 48 killings in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

In response, Asthana said even Indian people are getting killed due to their involvement in criminal activities, mentioning that at least three Indians were killed along the border this year.

"This is an issue that concerns both parties. We can assure one thing, that BSF uses lethal weapons as a last resort only. These killings are taking place in the dead of the night, between 10 pm and 5 am. We are trying to solve this in the most appropriate manner," the BSF chief told the press.

Real time information needed for CBMP

The BGB chief emphasised effective implementation of a Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) to prevent cross-border criminal activities like smuggling of drugs, arms, counterfeit currencies, gold, and arms and demanded BSF’s cooperation.

Both sides agreed to share real time information and conduct joint raids, where necessary, to prevent smuggling. Bangladesh and Indian border forces also decided to stop people from both sides from crossing the border illegally.

No illegal immigration from Bangladesh

During the conference, BGB told India that no illegal immigration to India from Bangladesh is taking place, as the GDP of Bangladesh is on an upward trend and the people do not need to go to India for jobs or other reasons.

People only visit India for medical purposes with valid documents, and some families at the border areas do visit their relatives on the other side during festivals or occasions only with valid travel documents, said BGB chief Shafeenul Islam at a press conference.

However, BSF chief Asthana said the Indian border force has apprehended 3,204 persons in 2020 for illegally entering India from Bangladesh. Among them, 60 whose nationalities were established were handed over to BGB.

People whose nationalities could not be identified were handed over to local police, he said.

The BGB director general, speaking at the press conference, denied reports of people crossing the border from Assam, as they did not find their names in the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

1.3km Innocent Passage requested along River Padma

BGB chief Shafeenul also reiterated the request for developing a 1.3km Innocent Passage through the river route along the Padma river near Rajshahi district with highest priority, which was earlier made during a virtual summit between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 17.

The BSF DG in response said he will discuss it with the authorities concerned and will resolve the issue.

Both sides also mutually agreed not to take any development activities within 150 yards of the international border without informing the other side, and to complete development activities at the border that had been suspended.

The conference has decided to hold the next director general level border conference by the second week of April in Dhaka, Bangladesh.