The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Roll-call for border belts

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The Centre will issue multi-purpose national identity cards to people in some areas of border states like Kashmir, Gujarat, Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura as a first step towards building a national register of citizens.

The exercise is meant primarily to strengthen border management and facilitate the setting up of a credible identification system of people in border areas.

Successive governments have long focused on the western border because of hostility with Pakistan and the low-intensity war Islamabad has been waging for over a decade in Kashmir. Now, the Centre is gradually realising the need to guard its eastern flank as well.

The government is also planning to set up high-tech electronic surveillance systems along the border. It is also considering the formation of state-level standing committees and joint task forces by border states and those whose coastlines are near neighbouring countries.

Fencing of borders, at least at the most vulnerable points, and renewing diplomatic initiative with neighbour countries to stop infiltration and cross- border terrorism are being considered.

The home ministry consultative committee met yesterday for a detailed review of the border management policy. The meeting was chaired by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and was attended by senior home ministry officials.

“I am glad the government has at last woken up to the dangers of the situation on the eastern border,” CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said. The members were shown a home ministry presentation on the situation along the border with Nepal, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan.

Border management has become an important part of India’s national security because both Bangladesh and Bhutan have become the favourite haunts for northeastern insurgent groups. India has accused the Bangladesh National Party government in Dhaka of not doing much to deal with the insurgents who have set up base in their country.

Delhi has expressed concern over ISI’s growing activities in Bangladesh since the Khaleda Zia regime came to power a year ago.

The Maoists in Nepal have added to the problem. Most members at the meeting expressed concern over the rise in activities of insurgents in neighbouring countries. Some felt that vulnerable points along the coastline, too, must be sealed to check armed rebel groups.

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