The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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More muscle for Bangla border

Tekanpur, March 8: The Centre is thinking of deploying additional battalions of the Border Security Force in a bid to strengthen the 4,000 km-long porous India-Bangladesh border.

With the Centre giving top priority to “illegal immigration” from Bangladesh into India, effective manning of the border by the BSF has become necessary.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today told parliamentarians attached to the consultative committee of the home ministry that preliminary discussions have already been held with Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Serious efforts are now on to provide additional help to strengthen the eastern border, he added.

General (Retd) Shankar Roy Chaudhury, a Bengal-nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, asked Advani whether more BSF personnel could be deployed along the long and porous eastern border to check illegal entry into the country.

Advani said deploying additional BSF battalions was one of the several steps being considered for effective manning of the border.

Though the Centre has identified nearly “20 million” illegal Bangladeshis in the country, it is still trying to evolve an effective policy on sending them back. Till then, the emphasis will be on strengthening border security.

Indications suggest some additional BSF battalions might be sent to the India-Bangladesh border over the next few months. As many are still engaged in Kashmir, it would take a while for the requisite number to be despatched.

Advani shared with the MPs his views on Jammu and Kashmir and his talks with Bangladesh foreign minister Mohammad Morshed Khan, who visited Delhi recently.

He said he had clearly conveyed to Dhaka that the Khaleda Zia government would have to take urgent steps to deal with India’s security concerns if it wants to maintain good neighbourly relations.

Advani met his guests at the 2,923-acre campus of the BSF Academy, an hour’s drive from Gwalior. The MPs watched a demonstration of the BSF in training and listened to a first-hand account on the making of the “sentinels of our borders”.

The BSF was raised in 1965 to guard the country’s borders. Today, much of the force is tied up fighting militants in Kashmir and the Northeast.

Advani was disappointed at the low turnout of MPs for the function this afternoon. Of the 40-odd consultative committee members, 12 turned up. “Those MPs who had first put the idea in the agenda are unfortunately not here. I thought it was a good thing for members to learn about these institutions,” he said.

The mock exercises and demonstrations for the dignitaries began with a show of firing skills acquired at the artillery training school. The dog squad, that plays an important role in detecting RDX and other explosives used by militants, too, was on show. The newly-acquired 105-mm Light Field Guns were on display.

Many MPs were impressed with the show in an improvised explosive device park that teaches academy trainees to deal with IEDs and how their alertness and vigilance often make all the difference between life and death.

Ali Mohammed Naik, a National Conference MP from Kashmir, however, was not amused. “I have not come here all the way to be killed by an IED after escaping two explosions in my own state,” he said.

Naik had recently escaped unhurt when his vehicle plunged into a river after the bridge it was crossing exploded.

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