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BSF directed to fire only in self defence: Chidambaram

Dhaka: India has ordered its border guards BSF not to fire at people seeking to cross over along the porous Indo-Bangla frontier, except for self-defence, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said here on Friday.

"Let me make it very clear, we have issued strict instructions to our Border Security Force (BSF) that in no circumstances should they fire upon anyone trying to cross either from Bangladesh to India or (from) India to Bangladesh.

The message has gone down to the last jawan," he told a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Sahara Khatun after talks at the secretariat.

"The only circumstances we have set the firing may be justified when gangs actually attack BSF jawans or officials (as) everybody has right to protect himself or self-defence," he underlined after their nearly two-and-a-half-hour meeting, which came ahead of the September 6 and 7 visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

Chidambaram, who is on a 24-hour visit here, said the number of frontier killings came down "dramatically" after the instruction was issued and "there were seven cases this year….seven is bad but you must look at the number last year or year before which were 33, 50 or even more".

The Bangladeshi minister said they had discussed "with extra importance on ways to stop killing of people on the frontiers during our meeting" as the issue remained a major concern.

"We have protested such incidents every time it happens (but) you have heard him…I don?t think I have anything to say on the matter" at this point, Khatun said.

India and Bangladesh today inked a comprehensive border management agreement to ensure cross-frontier security through measures like joint vigils to deal with human trafficking and smuggling of drugs and weapons.

Chidambaram said the deal was expected to resolve all outstanding frontier issues including combating cross-border crimes and "enhance quality of border management as well as ensure (cross-border) security".

Chidambaram and his Bangladeshi counterpart Khatun said they expected the outstanding frontier issues 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," the Indian Home Minister said.

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.

"The figure is much less than what was assumed earlier," he said.

Chidambaram said the issues of lands in adverse possession was 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.

The two countries had last week concluded a joint headcount in 162 enclaves on both sides of their over 4,000 kilometre porous borders. Of this, 111 are Indian territories inside Bangladesh.

The enclaves, or areas land-locked by territories belonging to the other side, has been an unresolved border issue between the two countries since partition of the subcontinent.

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