The director general-level conference between the border forces of Bangladesh and India have concluded in Dhaka with a fresh a promise from the Indian side that they would "try their best" to bring down killings along the border to zero.
Reiterating his country's commitment to curb border killings, Rakesh Asthana, director general of India's Border Security Force (BSF), said killings on the frontier are untoward happenings and that stopping such killings should be given top priority.
He, however, mentioned that most of the people killed by the border forces are criminals and that criminals do not have any nationality.
"80% of the incidents take place between 10 pm and 5:30 am. Normally, criminals from both sides are active during this period," Asthana said while talking to the media at the end of the four-day 50th biannual conference between the BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on Saturday.
Noting that the operations have taken place inside Indian territory, he also said 52 BSF personnel have been injured by criminals operating in both countries.
"However, I am not justifying any killing. I reiterate that we are committed to reducing border killings to zero," he said, adding that India has very good relations with Bangladesh.
"I have joined recently and in the future, you will see progress," the BSF DG added.
Asked why the BGB is not able to completely stop Bangladeshi nationals' trespass into Indian territory, BangladeshBorder Guard DG Major General Md Shafeenul Islam said, "The Bangladesh-India border is 4,427 kilometers long. It includes many rivers, wetlands, marshes, hills, and plains. We have border outposts every five kilometers. We are trying to protect the border with the help of technology."
According to the rights group Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), 15 Bangladeshi citizens were killed by the BSF along the Bangladesh-India border in 2018, with the number rising to 43 last year. This year, till Friday, 34 Bangladeshis have been killed along the border.
The BSF chief said, "During the pandemic joint patrols remained suspended, which is why firing related incidents saw an upsurge during this period."
Joint patrol operations and awareness-raising programmes in border areas will help bring down the death toll along the border.
The decisions taken during the conference are given below:
- Both sides agreed to take extra precautionary measures along the border to bring down the killing, injuring and beating unarmed nationals of both countries to zero by increasing coordinated patrols including intensifying public awareness programme, undertaking appropriate socio-economic developmental programmes in vulnerable areas.
- Both sides agreed to undertake joint efforts to bring down the number of incidents of assault and attacks to zero by increasing coordinated patrols in vulnerable areas and educating the border population about the sanctity of IB and preventing criminals from crossing the IB.
- Highlights the importance of Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) in curbing the menace of trans-border crimes such as the smuggling of various types of drugs and narcotics specially yaba, fire arms, contraband items, smuggling of cattle/FICN/Gold both sides agreed to pressure and share real time information which will be beneficial for both the border guarding forces.
- Both sides agreed to take effective steps for prevention of human trafficking and illegal crossing of IB. Both the DGs also agreed to aid victims of human trafficking and to facilitate their rescue and rehabilitation as soon as possible as per the law of the land.
- Both sides agreed to uphold the joint effort and carry out coordinated patrol regularly to prevent the breaching and damaging of IBB fence along the border.
BGB chief Shafeenul Islam also emphasised creating awareness among people in the border areas as an important tool to bring down border killings.
Replying to a question, the newly appointed BSF chief told journalists that he has adopted some fresh plans to curb killings along the border.
"I made these plans after joining the BSF. These will be implemented in the future. You wait and see please," he added.
Shahab Enam Khan, an international relations scholar and professor at Jahangirnagar University, told The Business Standard that the BGB-BSF meeting is a bilateral confidence building platform between the two neighbouring countries' border forces, and thus is of immense importance in resolving border and security concerns between Bangladesh and India amicably.
"Bangladesh's border force has repeatedly urged its counterpart to refrain from using any lethal weapons at the border. Using lethal weapons deeply affects moral and security relations between two sovereign countries. It's a clear violation of international norms and practices.
"Undoubtedly this border has become one of the most violent borders in the world, but Bangladesh has always practised restraint and adopted a moral approach. Therefore, the onus of finding effective and lawful alternatives to the lethal weapons that undermine the goodwill of Bangladesh certainly lie on the BSF," Professor Khan further said.
At the just-concluded DG-level meeting, the BSF reiterated its policy of using non-lethal weapons along the Bangladesh-India border.
It has also held out the assurance that all unarmed and innocent trespassers and victims of human trafficking would be handed over to BGB personnel.
Besides, recognising the difficulties in identifying the nationality of mentally challenged persons, the BSF proposed creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) to address such incidents along the frontier.
The BGB has suggested issuing daily passes for people residing in the bordering villages so that they could visit their relatives on the Indian side.
The BGB and the BSF agreed to accord priority to the prevention of human trafficking, drug smuggling and human rights issues.
Regarding the pollution of water through the Akhaura border, BGB Director General Shafeenul Islam said, "It is not our issue. It is up to the ministries concerned of the two countries to take action. Even so, the matter weighs on us."