Bangladesh and India have signed an important border management agreement to reduce incidents of killings and crime along the common frontier.
The border guards of the two countries would exchange information on vulnerable areas to ensure joint patrolling in a coordinated manner, the agreement said, adding, none of the troops would cross the border during patrol.
The Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) was signed in the presence of Home Minister P. Chidambaram and his Bangladesh counterpart Shahara Khatoon on Saturday, with the hope that this would further enhance the quality of border management.
The deal was signed by Maj. Gen. Anwar Hussain, Director General of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Raman Srivastava, Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF).
After the official talks with Ms. Khatoon, Mr. Chidambaram told a joint press conference that the Indian government had already issued strict instructions “not to fire” under any circumstance while people from Bangladesh or from India try to illegally cross the border. “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 either from Bangladesh to India or India to Bangladesh. The message has gone down to the last jawan.”
Mr. Chidambaram also said, after the instructions, the numbers of incidents came down dramatically, and only seven cases this year were reported compared to last year's 33.
The decision to stop border killing was viewed as significant in the backdrop of concerns being expressed by Bangladesh and also the influential global human rights groups demanding that India investigate the killings of Bangladeshis by its border forces. Bangladesh has also been demanding that lethal weapons not be used when people from both sides attempt to illegally cross over.
Mr. Chidambaran said they had discussed all border-related issues including the enclaves, un-demarcated 6.5 km and the land under adverse possessions. He expressed the hope that all the issues would be resolved before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh in early September.
In the official talks, Mr. Chidambaram led a 12-member delegation while his Bangladesh counterpart led a 17-member team.
The Home Minister told the press conference that a headcount of the 162 enclaves — 51 in Bangladesh and 111 in Indian territories — had been completed.
The total population of the enclaves is 51,000. Mr. Chidambaram also denied the allegation that any Bangladeshi national was stoned to death by the BSF. Bangladesh and India share over 4,000 km of boundary.
Ms. Khatoon said they had a fruitful discussion on enclave exchange and hoped that they would be able to resolve all the disputes, including the border problems, very soon. The round-the-clock access of Bangladeshis living in Dahagram and Angurpota also came up for discussion at the meeting, she added. Ms. Khatoon said the coordinated efforts of the BGB and the BSF would check smuggling and trafficking of humans, drugs and arms.
“India has taken several measures to enhance border control and we are committed to cooperating with Bangladesh in protecting our borders from illegal activities,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
According to him trade was a great booster to the bilateral relationship and the two sides were working on several projects to improve trade infrastructure and connectivity.
“India has now undertaken to set up seven integrated check posts [ICPs] and a foundation stone of the ICP was laid at Agartala in May 2011,” he said.
A new Land Customs Station was opened at Fulbari-Banglabandha in January this year and a border haat was inaugurated on the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border earlier this month.
Mr. Chidambaram said the relationship between India and Bangladesh was passing through a very promising phase as both sides were embarking on a number of forward-looking, pragmatic and mutually beneficial initiatives. He said considerable progress had been made in implementation of the joint communiqué declared during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi last year.