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Non-lethal pill for border ills

- Border forces’ meet ends in Sylhet

Shillong, Nov. 9: Border Security Force (BSF) personnel are now using “non-lethal” weapons along the India-Bangladesh border, reportedly bringing about considerable change in the otherwise edgy environment in the frontier areas.

This was brought to the knowledge of Bangladesh authorities during the four-day border coordination meeting between BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) officials, which concluded in Sylhet yesterday. The meeting had commenced on Monday.

A similar meeting was held in Shillong from December 12 to 15 last year.

“As BGB officials expressed concern about Bangladeshi nationals being fired upon, it was brought to their knowledge that BSF personnel were now using non-lethal weapons like pump-action guns and stun grenades along the border, which had brought in a considerable change in the environment in the border areas,” a BSF official said today.

The BGB delegation was told that BSF had been exercising “maximum restraint” and resorted to firing as the ultimate option and that, too, for “self-defence”. In the past, there had been reports suggesting that Bangladeshi nationals were being shot at along the border.

BSF Meghalaya frontier inspector-general Sudesh Kumar led the Indian delegation, which included the inspectors-general of the Tripura, Guwahati and Mizoram & Cachar frontiers and the respective sector deputy inspectors-general.

On the other hand, BGB deputy director-general Brig. Gen. Abu Sayeed Khan led the BGB delegation, which comprised sector commanders of Comilla, Rangamati, Rangpur, Sylhet, Mymensingh, and Khagrachari.

Four staff officers of BGB and two representatives from the Union ministry of home affairs and a representative from the Union ministry of external affairs also attended the meeting.

The agenda focused on common concerns of both border defence forces like movement of insurgents, human and drug trafficking, fake currency and arms smuggling, all of which require greater cooperation, understanding and synergy to make the lives of the border population secure.

The BSF delegation emphasised attacks/assaults on BSF personnel and unarmed Indian civilians and other provocative action by Bangladeshi criminals; joint efforts for prevention of smuggling of fake Indian currency notes and illegal migration/infiltration by Bangladeshi nationals; presence of Indian insurgents like GNLA, Ulfa, HNLC, NDFB and NLFT in Bangladesh and trans-border crimes like smuggling of forest produce and cattle committed by Bangladeshi nationals/criminals on Indian territory.

The coordinated border management plan, which was signed between the BSF and BGB on July 30, 2011 in Dhaka, was also followed up during the meeting. The issue of confidence-building measures was also taken up.

Moreover, the BSF provided facts and figures of all trans-border crimes committed by Bangladeshi nationals on Indian territory, apprehension of Bangladeshi nationals who had illegally entered India and seizure details regarding narcotics and other contraband items.

“The inspector-general, BSF, requested the deputy director-general, BGB, to take effective measures to stop illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals, to prevent transborder crimes and to take stringent action against Indian insurgent groups whose camps still existed in Bangladesh,” the BSF official said.

On the other hand, the BGB delegation highlighted the alleged firing on Bangladesh nationals by Indian nationals; kidnapping/apprehension of Bangladeshi nationals; illegal trespassing by Indian nationals into Bangladesh territory and smuggling of drugs/narcotics including Phensedyl, wine and drugs like cannabis from India to Bangladesh.

“Both forces agreed to look into border problems from each others’ perspectives with open minds. They also agreed to increase sharing of actionable intelligence to curb transborder crime,” the BSF official added.