Sunday, 31 July 2011

BSF told to hold fire

Chidambaram speaks of Delhi's firm instruction to border guards; deal signed to fight cross-border crimes together

Diplomatic Correspondent

India yesterday said it has ordered its Border Security Force not to shoot anyone crossing Indo-Bangla border no matter what the circumstances are.

Visiting Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram said this at a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Shahara Khatun.

“Let me make it very clear…we have issued strict instructions to our border security forces that under no circumstances should they fire upon anyone trying to cross from either Bangladesh to India or India to Bangladesh. The message has gone down to the last jawan,” Chidambaram said.

"The only situation in which we have said firing may be justified is when a gang actually attacks a BSF jawan or an office. Then he has to protect himself and fire in self-defence,” he added.

The Indian minister who arrived in Dhaka on Friday night for a one-day visit also claimed that the number of people getting killed at the borders has come down to seven this year, which was 33 last year.

However, according to Bangladeshi human rights body Odhikar, BSF killed 17 Bangladeshis and wounded 49 others between January and June. Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), another rights group, said 14 people were killed during the same period.

Yesterday's joint press conference was held after a meeting between Chidambaram and Shahara at the home ministry.

During the meeting that lasted one and a half hours, the two countries signed "Bangladesh and India Coordinated Border Management Plan" to stop cross-border crimes like smuggling of drugs and trafficking of women and children.

At the press conference, they expressed optimism that the issues of 6.5km border demarcation, transfer of enclaves, exclaves and adversely possessed land would be resolved before Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Dhaka on September 6-7.

The Indian home minister said headcounts at the 162 enclaves and exclaves have just been completed and the total population living in those is 51,000. Of them, 34,000 Indians and 17,000 Bangladeshis are living in Indian enclaves and exclaves. Many enclaves and exclaves are unpopulated.

Asked if the inhabitants would be given choice in taking citizenship, he said their fate will be decided by the two prime ministers when they meet in Dhaka.

Chidambaram said the issue of adversely possessed land has almost been resolved apart from one or two points that need to be worked out. He said the Joint Boundary Working Group is working on the un-demarcated 6.5km of border.

Shahara told the media that Bangladesh has sought India's cooperation in the search for two fugitive Bangabandhu killers--Majed and Moslehuddin.

Chidambaram said they may be in India and the Indian government will “leave no stone unturned to apprehend the convicts”. He, however, said India needs more information and intelligence from Bangladesh in this regard.

About the Indian Phensidyl factories along the border, the Bangladesh home minister said those factories have been closed. Phensidyl, a cough syrup, is banned in Bangladesh for its widespread abuse.

At the meeting, the two sides agreed to cooperate in the field of security and expressed their resolve to jointly combat the menace of insurgency, militancy and terrorism.

The 17-member Bangladesh team included State Minister for Home Shamsul Huq Tuku, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tariq A Karim, Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikdar, Land Secretary Mokhlesur Rahman, Inspector General of Police Hasan Mahmood Khandaker, Border Guard Bangladesh Director General Major Gen Anwar Hussain.

The Indian delegation included Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Rajeet Mitter, BSF Director General Raman Srivastava, Joint Secretaries Kamal Kanti Mittal, Shambhu Singh, Indian Deputy High Commissioner Sanjay Bhattacharyya and Inspector General (G) BSF SK Mishra, and External Affairs Ministry Director Deepak Mittal.

Before leaving Dhaka last night, the Indian minister met Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

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