The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BSF ‘eastern theatre’ to counter Bangla threat

Shillong/Agartala, Nov. 29: A day after Bangladesh again denied the existence of militant bases on its soil, the Border Security Force (BSF) revealed plans to create an “eastern theatre” with 31 additional companies exclusively for deployment along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Additional director-general (East) A.K. Mitra said in Shillong that the decision to deploy extra battalions had been taken because the BSF’s presence along the Indo-Bangladesh border was inadequate at present. “We are completely stretched out in this sector,” he said.

Under the new action plan, two more inspectors-general will be posted, in Malda and Silchar. As many as 78 new battalions will be raised to cope with the pressure of guarding the eastern frontier.

Mitra said the creation of an “eastern theatre” had been necessitated by the surge in militant activity in neighbouring Bangladesh. He informed that Rs 1 crore has been sanctioned for bolstering the Assam frontier and Rs 50,000 for the Tripura sector.

The official admitted that deployment of BSF personnel on the Assam-Bhutan border would cause a manpower crisis, but said the problem would be solved after forces were relocated from Manipur. He said seven BSF battalions now stationed in Manipur would be relocated to the Indo-Bangladesh border in Assam and Meghalaya.

The Union home ministry had announced that the BSF would be relieved of the additional responsibility of internal security by December 15.

Mitra did not specify the number of battalions that would be deployed along the Assam-Bhutan border, saying it would be finalised after a survey of the area.

“Nine battalions had to be deployed the last time our services were requisitioned for the Assam-Bhutan border,” he said.

The BSF official said 99 training camps for militants, some of them set up by outfits of the Northeast, had been traced in Bangladesh. He claimed that the force had even identified the routes used by the militants.

B.K. Dey Sawian, inspector-general of the BSF’s Shillong sector, said over a dozen such routes were in the Meghalaya sector of the international border. “Some of these areas are frequented by militants and categorised as traditional routes. These include Phanda, Dhambakapol and Purakasia in the West Garo Hills and Umkian-Rattacherra in the Jaintia Hills,” he said.

The inspector-general of the BSF’s Tripura, Cachar and Mizoram sectors, M.C. Parmar, painted a grim picture of the situation. He told newspersons in Agartala that the presence of al Qaida activists and militants of the Northeast in Bangladesh was an “open secret”.

Parmar said the BSF had “enough evidence” to back the allegations against Bangladesh. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was the first senior political leader to charge the neighbouring country with allowing anti-India activity on its soil.

Bangladesh Rifles recently agreed to pursue a “policy of give and take” with the BSF and provide information about insurgent activity, “if any”, on its territory.

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