Dhaka, Delhi hold border management talks


Dhaka : India is expected to demand the deportation of top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a militant outfit that it says operates from Bangladeshi soil, as top brass of the border guards of the two neighbours began talks here Sunday.

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Talks will take place over three days between the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) delegation led by its director general, Major General Mainul Islam and his Indian counterpart, Border Security Force Director General M.L. Kumawat.

Bangladesh too has a string of issues to raise with India and the matter on top of the agenda is to “stop killing of unarmed Bangladeshis”, media reports here said on the eve of the discussions.

Odhikar, a human rights watchdog, has alleged that India’s Border Security Force (BSF) personnel killed 789 unarmed Bangladesh nationals, some of them on Bangladeshi territory, between 2000 and May this year, New Age newspaper reported.

The Indian side of the story is that these are mainly smugglers of goods and cattle who operate at night and flee when challenged by the BSF. There are also human-traffickers and illegal immigrants coming into India. Indian estimates vary from three million on the West Bengal border to an overall 1.5 million.

In a bid to strengthen the relationship between BDR and BSF, holding of regular flag meetings and friendly sport matches are also likely to be on the agenda, sources at the home ministry told The Daily Star.

This is the second BDR-BSF consultation since BDR troopers staged a mutiny in February, killing 81 people, most of them Bangladesh Army officers on deputation to the BDR.

The venue of the consultations is the BDR headquarters at Pilkhana, in the heart of the national capital, where the mutiny took place.

The BSF had sealed the border to prevent movement of fugitives among the BDR personnel to facilitate the process of bringing the guilty to book.

The conference also takes place in the backdrop of the killing of three Bangladeshi cattle traders at Benapole border Saturday. The BSF gunned down the traders while they were returning home from India in the morning. The incident triggered tension along the border.

The two neighbours share a difficult, even unnatural 4,300-km border that criss-crosses rivers, villages and even cuts across individual homes.

Indian attempts at erecting a barbed wire border fence to prevent infiltration is a bone of contention between the neighbours. Dhaka treats it as a defence installation, while Delhi says it is meant to prevent infiltration and ease frequent border tensions.

“Defence strategy in the name of erecting fences along the border, road construction and excavation within 150 yards of the border line will come as agenda at the conference,” read the list of the BDR agenda, adding that Dhaka would also ask Delhi for repatriation of the nationals of the two countries who have completed jail terms.

Delhi too wants custody of Anup Chetia, a top ULFA leader who completed his jail term for entering Bangladesh on forged papers several years ago but is being held back.

India alleges that most of the top ULFA leadership, including its chief Paresh Barua, live in Bangladesh under assumed names, have invested in business and some have married locally to raise families, while their cadres stage operations in Assam in India’s northeastern region.