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Stage set for joint patrol on Bengal border

New Delhi, July 21: The Border Security Force and the Bangladesh Rifles are ready to begin joint patrolling of the 4,900-km boundary between India and Bangladesh.

The proposal had long been on the anvil but not taken off. BSF chief Ajai Raj Sharma said today that the two sides had made progress and Dhaka was considering a final draft agreement sent by Delhi.

“Modalities for the move have been worked out and the final draft agreement has been sent to Bangladesh for approval,” he said. India expected a response from Bangladesh within 10 days. Once the agreement was finalised, the joint patrol would begin.

“Joint patrol” does not mean there would be a combined team of Indian and Bangladeshi forces patrolling together. Each force would watch its side of the border, but the area to be patrolled would be decided by BSF and BDR officials jointly before the exercise.

The officials would meet again later to present the assessment of each team and try to plug loopholes if any were detected. “After each patrolling, sector commanders of the two forces would meet for debriefing to exchange each other’s experiences and point out any areas where improvement was needed,” Sharma said.

A home ministry official said: “Joint patrolling by the BSF and the BDR will mean better coordination and liaison between officials of both agencies. They will exchange notes but normal patrolling by the BSF will continue.”

The two sides would also mark “sensitive” areas commonly used for illegal migration and smuggling cattle and goods across the border.

Patrolling, however, would not be done daily but only on certain days, Sharma said. The dates would be kept secret by both sides. The strength of the patrol troop for each assignment would be decided mutually, he said.

Patrolling the border is important for India not just to curb smuggling but also to put a stop to illegal migration from Bangladesh, which has over the years led to tension in border villages of Bengal and Assam.

Illegal migration into Assam had triggered a people’s movement in the state. The people of the state believe that unless infiltration is checked, Assam’s demographic pattern will be drastically altered.

Now, infiltration had also become a security risk. “Over the years, the ISI (of Pakistan) has been using the open borders to send terror groups into the country,” the ministry official said.

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