NATIONAL

Border fencing legitimate: India

DHAKA, MARCH 17. India has requested Bangladesh for full cooperation, including the issuance of necessary instructions to the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), to avoid any untoward incidents in constructing barbed wire fencing along the border.

The Indian High Commission in Dhaka has termed the fencing work by the Border Security Force (BSF) within 150 yards of the zero-line a "legitimate activity" and said the fencing had no defence potential. A statement issued by the High Commission on Wednesday said: "However, in carrying out this legitimate activity of constructing a fence, the BSF has been experiencing resistance from the Bangladeshi side which has led to occasional tensions caused by unprovoked firing by the BDR along the border."

The statement said that fencing work had been under way since 1989 and that a greater part of the fence was located at or beyond 150 yards from the zero-line on the Indian side. "However, in specific areas mainly due to the existence of villages, or as necessitated by terrain conditions, the fence had to be built within 150 yards," the High Commission said. India has formally conveyed the details of villages, houses and population within 150 yards of the zero-line to Bangladesh.

It also says India has consistently affirmed that the 1975 Border Guidelines relate to the demolition of defensive structures only. "They do not apply to the building of a fence, which is a physical barrier intended to stop smuggling and other illegal movements across the border. The fence has no defence potential whatsoever." The statement said India believed that a misinterpretation of the 1975 Border Guidelines, which were actually drawn up in a spirit of friendship and understanding to guide the two forces, was stalling legitimate development activity. India did not raise any objection to a request from Bangladesh in 1999 to construct a 1320 feet by 10 feet high masonry wall along the Hilli Railway Station, within only a few feet from the zero-line, the statement said. "India's decision was guided by the spirit of friendship that exists between the two countries and with a view to enabling the Bangladeshi authorities to check illegal trans-border movement and to contain criminal activities."

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