The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sparks fly on Bangla border

New Delhi, Jan 28: As Indian and Bangladeshi security forces exchanged fire on the border, Delhi urged Dhaka to take sincere steps to tackle the problem of illegal migration.

Rejecting Bangladesh’s charge that India was trying to push Indian Muslims across the border, foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said: “Any such allegation is baseless and absurd. There is no question of Indian nationals being pushed into Bangladesh.”

India claims there are over 20 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the country and almost everyday more people are sneaking across the border. But Dhaka disputes not only the number, but even the charge that a large number of Bangladeshis are staying in India illegally.

Recently, it alerted its security forces along the border to thwart any attempt by India to push back its nationals into the country. Last night, armed guards of the two sides exchanged fire along the border at Palianpur in Jhenaidah district, about 138 km from Dhaka.

Bangladesh alleged that India had tried to push in several Bengali-speaking Indian Muslims into the country. Though there were no reports of casualty, the firing created tension along the border.

Sarna said the problem of illegal immigrants was a serious one and “cannot be wished away”. He said India had repeatedly drawn the attention of the Bangladesh government to the problem, but no effective steps had been taken by Dhaka. “We urge the government of Bangladesh to recognise the gravity of the situation and cooperate with us in a sincere and pragmatic manner,” he said.

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