The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Intrusion yes, camps no

Tin Bigha (Cooch Behar), Jan. 31: Bangladesh's state minister for home affairs Md Lutfozzaman Babar today denied the existence of training camps for militants in his country but admitted that some amount of infiltration into India by Bangladeshis was taking place.

During the first-ever visit by a home minister in the BNP government to the corridor that connects mainland Bangladesh to its enclave, the minister spoke mainly about the need to develop the area inhabited by more than 14,000 Bangladeshis.

'Talks will be held at all levels with the Indian side so that the corridor is open for 24 hours instead of the (current status of) 12 hours,' the visiting dignitary said.

The Bangladesh enclave has two villages ' Dahagram and Angrapota ' and is spread over 4,616.93 acres. A narrow corridor of about 700 m connects the Panbari BDR border outpost in mainland Bangladesh to its enclave located 125 km from Cooch Behar town. Called the Tin Bigha, the corridor was leased out perpetually to the neighbours in June 1992 to facilitate movement through Indian territory.

Babar and his entourage of 15 officials, including the director general of Bangladesh Rifles Maj. Gen. Md Jahangir Alam Choudhury, were given a cordial welcome by BSF officers and jawans led by Jalpaiguri sector commander deputy inspector-general Harish Kumar.

The visiting minister, however, preferred to answer questions from the huge turnout of Bangladeshi journalists rather than reporters of the host country, who probed him on 'sensitive' issues. Unable to stall the persistent queries on rebel training camps on Bangla soil, the minister said there were no such camps in his country. 'I invite you to come over and see for yourselves,' he told the Indian reporters.

Regarding infiltration, he said there may be a few cases. 'But the figures given by the Indian government have been exaggerated.'

The minister said the demarcation provisions of the 1974 agreement between Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rehman has not been ratified by the Indian Parliament. 'Had it been, then the border problems would have been solved,' he said.

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