The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Twin talks with Bangla

New Delhi, April 26: India and Bangladesh will make another attempt to maintain peace along their 4000-km-long border.

There is an increasing realisation among leaders on either side that if bilateral relations are to improve, it is essential that the porous border remains free of “ugly” incidents.

Management of the border has become crucial in view of the Satgachi incident in February. At that time, the border security forces of the two countries came close to a confrontation over the fate of 213 snake charmers. The snake charmers from Bangladesh had tried to cross over to India but were stopped by the Border Security Force in the Cooch Behar sector.

The BSF’s attempt to push them back was resisted by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and it led to a standoff between the two forces.

The impasse lasted nearly a week till the political leadership in Dhaka intervened and the snake charmers were allowed to slip quietly into Bangladesh in the dead of night.

BSF director-general Ajay Raj Sharma will leave for Dhaka tomorrow to hold talks with his BDR counterpart Mohammed Jahangir Alam Chaudhury. Their talks will run parallel to the meeting of the foreign secretaries of the two countries in Dhaka.

India’s Kanwal Sibal will hold wide-ranging talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Shamsher Mobin Chaudhury to iron out differences that appear to have crept into bilateral ties.

The two foreign secretaries will get a chance to review the entire gamut of bilateral relations and, therefore, could take a more holistic view of the direction Indo-Bangladesh ties are likely to take in the coming days. However, for the Indian delegation, security-related issues are of utmost importance and Sibal is likely to put a lot of emphasis on these issues.

Apart from illegal immigration, the presence of a number of Northeast insurgent groups and the alleged growth of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence in Bangladesh will also be discussed.

The Indian delegation, which has already submitted a list of 88 Northeast insurgents arrested in Bangladesh since 1998, will try to get more details about their whereabouts and demand that they be handed over once they complete their terms in Bangladeshi prisons.

In 1991, India and Bangladesh had agreed on a mechanism to check illegal immigration and smuggling.

According to this mechanism, any person caught crossing the border illegally is to be handed over by the side apprehending him to the other side. If there is confusion over the person’s nationality, it was agreed that the two sides should sit together and determine it within 48 hours on the basis of the disclosure made by the apprehended person.

But this mechanism failed during the Satgachi incident. “Such a situation was created because the Bangladesh side refused to implement and adhere to the ground rules agreed between the two countries,” a senior foreign ministry official said here this afternoon.

He said that in the forthcoming meetings, attempts will be made by the two sides to iron out their differences and ensure that during future crises, the ground rules are adhered to by the security forces of the two countries.

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