India-Bangladesh sign border management deal

Dhaka: India and Bangladesh on Friday inked a key agreement aimed at enhancing quality of border management and ensuring cross-frontier security through measures like joint vigils to deal with human trafficking and smuggling of drugs and weapons.

The comprehensive border management agreement was signed in the presence of visiting Home Minister P Chidambaram and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sahara Khatun.

"We have just signed the agreement — Border Management Coordination Plan for a comprehensive and joint management of all frontier issues," Khatun told a joint news conference with Chidambaram after their nearly two-and-a-half-hour meeting, which came ahead of the September visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

Chidambaram said the agreement — signed by Border Guard Bangladesh`s Director General Maj Gen Anwar Hossain and his Indian counterpart from the Border Security Force (BSF) Raman Srivastava — was expected to resolve all outstanding frontier issues, including combating cross-border crimes.

"The agreement will enhance quality of border management as well as ensure (cross-border) security," he said.

India and Bangladesh share 4,096 km border, of which 6.1 kilometres is still un-demarcated.

Officials here familiar with the process said the deal intended to enforce joint frontier vigils from certain border points against cross-border crimes like human trafficking and weapons and drug smuggling.

The two countries had last week concluded a joint headcount in 162 enclaves on both sides of their borders.

Both the leaders said they expected the outstanding frontier issues between the two countries to be resolved ahead of Prime Minister Singh`s visit here.

"I am confident and hopeful that all outstanding border problems between India and Bangladesh will be solved before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s visit here," Chidambaram said.

He said the joint communique issued during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s New Delhi visit last year that largely dominated the frontier issues also witnessed "considerable progress" as implementation of decisions made under the statement was progressed fast.

Khatun said that the Dhaka-New Delhi ties currently witnessed a new trajectory. "We also discussed with extra importance on ways to stop killing of people on the frontiers during our meeting," she said.

Chidambaram said the cross-border security issue was a major concern of India and Bangladesh while "both the countries recognize the importance of cooperation in the field of security and determined to jointly combat the menace of militancy insurgency and terrorism".

Asked if the protracted Indian allegation about Bangladesh patronage of separatist elements was still valid, Chidambaram said during his past two and half years of office in the home ministry no such allegation was made by New Delhi.

"We are glad that our leaderships have agreed not to allow their territories for activities inimical against each other`s countries," he said.

Chidambaram said the incidents of deaths in BSF shootouts drastically reduced in recent period as "strict instructions" were issued asking Indian border guards not shoot anyone who "attempted to cross or crossed" the borders.

Chidambaram said BSF men were asked to use their weapons for "self-defence" only if they came under attack by armed gangs in the frontlines.

Listing the progress in efforts to strengthen further bilateral ties in recent time, Chidambaram said the headcount of enclave residents was completed earlier this month that found the enclave population to be 51,000 as process was underway to exchange the enclaves.

He said the issues of lands in adverse possession also "nearly resolved" as the problems with such lands as well as the undemarcated 6.5 kilometers borders were expected to be fully settled during Singh`s visit.

Chidambaram led a 12-member delegation from New Delhi comprising Indian border guard chief and senior officials of the home and foreign ministries and their envoy in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh side comprised an 18-member delegation that included Prime Minister`s foreign affairs adviser Gawher Rizvi, Bangladesh High Commissioner to New Delhi Tarique A Karim, state minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku, secretaries of foreign and home ministries and BGB and police chiefs.