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India warns Bangladesh against "unprovoked attacks" on border

Wednesday 20 April 2005

"We’re exercising maximum restraint but will be forced to take strong action against such criminal activities," says BSF Director-General

GUWAHATI: India warned Bangladesh on Monday not to escalate border tensions by ``unprovoked attacks’’ following a weekend skirmish that left two persons dead.

``Unprovoked attack and escalation of tension in the border areas is not healthy for a friendly atmosphere,’’ said Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary, Director-General of the Border Security Force (BSF). "We’re exercising maximum restraint but will be forced to take strong action against such criminal activities,’’ he said here. "We have adequate BSF soldiers on the border to meet any challenge." The warning followed an exchange of fire on Saturday between Bangladeshi and Indian border forces that officials said killed an Indian BSF assistant commandant and a young Bangladeshi girl. Both sides have blamed each other for starting the firing.

In April 2001, as many as 16 Indian border guards and three Bangladeshi troops died in the deadliest border clash between the countries. The weekend gunbattle along Bangladesh’s eastern Akhaura border erupted as talks between Bangladeshi and Indian officials in Dhaka on ending rows over New Delhi’s fencing of their common 4,095-km frontier and other security issues ended without resolution.

India says it is building the fence to prevent rebels, illegal migrants and smugglers from sneaking across the frontier. Bangladesh does not object to the fence, but it has asked India not to build it within 150 metres of the so-called ``zero line,’’ saying it violates a 1974 agreement between the two countries.

Both countries also routinely charge each other with sheltering rebels and criminals. ``During our Dhaka meeting, we did not get a positive response in resolving important issues like handing over Indian militant leaders, destroying militant camps, and checking illegal migration from across the border,’’ the BSF official said.

The Indian side has alleged Bangladesh has 190 camps run by north-eastern Indian separatist groups on its soil. Bangladesh rejects such charges and has said there are Bangladeshi criminals hiding in India.

BSF seeks action

The BSF has urged the Centre and the Indian High Commission in Dhaka to seek stern action against the BDR for Saturday’s gunbattle.

"We will re-think about our relation with Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) following Saturday’s incident in which the Assistant Commandant was killed and four others, including two jawans, were injured at Lankamura near here,’’ the BSF Additional Director-General, S I S Ahmed, told reporters in Agartala.

He said if the BDR or any Bangladeshi security force fired on the Indian side or violated any norms, the BSF would give a befitting reply.

``They (BDR) violated the standing norms, misutilised our trust and faith and acted like a betrayer,’’ Mr. Ahmed, an IPS officer, said after visiting the trouble-torn areas of the border.

Terming Saturday’s incident as a "criminal act," Mr. Ahmed said it was pre-planned by the BDR-smuggler nexus.

"Later the BDR spread a concocted story and issued a statement prepared before the incident. The recent firing on the Indian side would reflect on any future action of the BSF," Mr. Ahmed said. ``If relations at the lower level of the two border guards remain bad, the overall relations cannot improve."

The force was also concerned over the rapid growth of madrasas, mosques and increased activities of fundamentalist forces along the border with India, Mr. Ahmed said.

Meanwhile, an inconclusive meeting between the BSF and Bangladesh Rifles was held at the Akhaurah checkpost here on Sunday night over Saturday’s incident.

The BDR Comilla sector commandant, Jahangir Alam, who led the Bangladesh delegation, regretted the killing and the entire incident. However, he alleged that the BSF had violated the standing procedure resulting in the unfortunate incident.

The BSF DIG, R K Chowdhury, who led the Indian delegation, said it was false that BSF personnel had violated the standing procedure. The BDR, with the nexus of smugglers, had done this in a pre-planned manner and killed the assistant commandant as he checked smuggling in this sector. - Agencies, UNI

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