Thursday, February 23, 2012

Border management top on agenda

As effective implementation of the Coordinated Border Management Plan is likely to top the agenda of home minister Shahara Khatun's meeting with her Indian counterpart P Chidambaram on Friday, New Delhi is set to urge Dhaka to restrict movement of people along the border.

While Dhaka is expected to take up the issue of alleged excesses committed by India's Border Security Force (BSF) personnel on the citizens of Bangladesh, New Delhi is set to point it out that the policy of restraint implemented by its border guards had 'emboldened' the criminal elements active across the line between the two neighbours.

Sources in the India's ministry of home affairs said New Delhi would point out that taking advantage of the policy of restraint exercised by them, criminal elements active along the border had in the past few months stepped up attacks on the BSF personnel.

"There have been a number of attacks on the BSF personnel in the recent months along the India-Bangladesh border. A BSF head constable also got killed by smugglers, who came from across the border at Gobardah in North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal," said a senior official.

"We would stress that illegal activities, which sometimes lead to regrettable loss of lives on both sides of the border, need to be addressed through joint collaborative efforts and mechanisms," he added.

Shahara's meeting with Chidambaram is the second between the two. They last met in Dhaka in July last year, when the Coordinated Border Management Plan was signed.

The video footage of a Bangladeshi national being stripped and tortured by the BSF personnel along the border in Murshidabad district of West Bengal on Dec 9, 2011 triggered uproar last month, prompting Dhaka to lodge a protest with New Delhi. The BSF suspended eight soldiers, who were involved with the torture of the man, and also ordered an investigation.

Dhaka, however, is expected to raise the issue once again at the home minister-level meeting starting Friday.

But New Delhi maintains that number incidents of firing by BSF personnel or alleged excesses committed by them have came down drastically in the recent months as the paramilitary force was told to exercise as much restraint as possible, and that .

Sources in the Indian ministry of home affairs claimed that BSF has been exercising utmost restraint and resorted to firing in self-defence only in the recent months. Besides, New Delhi had also started arming the BSF personnel with non-lethal weapons apart from taking other measures, like round-the-clock domination and intensive patrolling as well as night time restrictions on the movement of people in the border areas.

"Unfortunately, this policy of restraint has emboldened criminal elements who have stepped up their attacks on BSF personnel deployed along the border in order to facilitate their illegal activities," said a senior official in New Delhi.

During his meeting with Shahara, Chidambaram is likely to stress that the Coordinated Border Management Plan envisaged joint responsibility of both BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh to synergize their efforts to ensure effective control over cross-border illegal activities and crimes as well as for maintenance of peace and harmony along the border.

"Illegal activities, which sometimes lead to regrettable loss of lives on both sides along the border, need to be addressed through joint collaborative efforts and mechanisms. We will continue to work closely with the government of Bangladesh to maintain peace and harmony along the border," said the official of the ministry of home affairs.

Chidambaram and Shahara will hold a one-on-one meeting before leading the delegations of the respective countries to the parleys.

A press-release issued by the India's ministry of home affairs on Thursday said that "issues concerning security, border management and enhanced cooperation between the police and law enforcement agencies between the two countries" would be high on agenda.

India's national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, home secretary R K Singh and foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai would be members of the Indian delegation to be led by Chidambaram. The Bangladesh delegation would include prime minister Sheikh Hasina's advisor Gowher Rizvi, Bangladesh high commissioner in India Tariq A Karim and senior secretary of the ministry of home affairs C Q K Mustaq Ahmed.