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Dhaka ice cracks, only just

Dhaka, Sept. 17: Bangladesh has again rejected India's proposal that security forces of both countries jointly patrol the border.

As the two sides wrapped up talks here today, the home secretaries said in a joint statement that 'patrolling would be done by the respective security forces (BDR and BSF) in their own territories'.

It added: 'The two forces may coordinate with each other, keeping in view the resource constraints. The modalities would be worked out by the BDR and BSF.'

The BSF and BDR chiefs will meet in Dhaka on September 27 to work out the details.

Delhi had pushed for joint patrol along the 4,000-km border to stop the movement of insurgents and smugglers. It holds that Northeast militants have training camps across the border, a claim Bangladesh hotly denies.

India handed a list of militant leaders, including Ulfa commander Paresh Barua, it wants Dhaka to extradite. The team led by home secretary Dhirendra Singh iterated that Northeast insurgents run at least 195 camps in Bangladesh.

Dhaka, on the other hand, asked India to crack down on anti-Bangladesh activists who it claims have taken shelter in the country and handed a list of 39 organisations.

Bangladesh home secretary Muhammad Omar Farooq said: 'We have agreed that there is a need for coordination between the border security forces'. If criminals from our side cross into their side, we can alert the Indian forces about them. The same can be done by the Indian side.'

The meeting between the home secretaries was the first at this level in four years. The next one is expected in New Delhi early next year.

Bengal home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, who was part of Singh's team, said on his return to Calcutta that the meeting was 'pathbreaking'. 'Both countries have agreed to talk more frequently.'

Deb said a hotline between Delhi and Dhaka at the secretary level was on the cards.

Neither camp gave details of the discussion. 'We have noted that these are problems that have existed for a long time and we have agreed to work closely on these matters,' Singh said

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who met the Prime Minister today, told him ISI-backed militants were operating out of Bangladesh and the situation on the border was 'grave'.

Dhaka agreed to grant double entry and exit visas to Indians transiting through the country. India already provides such facilities to Bangladeshis. People travelling by bus to Bengal through Bangladesh territory will welcome the move. Dhaka and Tripura have a direct bus service, which has failed to attract Indians because of the absence of the double entry and exit visa.

Bangladesh has agreed to examine an Indian proposal of an extradition treaty and agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

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