Agreement signed between Bangladesh and India over use of deadly force by border guards
(3 August 2011)
Following official talks between Bangladesh and India on 31 July 2011, instructions were handed down to both countries’ border guards not to fire upon any unarmed persons crossing from either side of the international boundary. The agreement, aimed at reducing deaths and crime in the frontier region between the two nations, was announced during a joint press-conference. The Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram stated "The only circumstance in which firing may be justified is when a gang actually attacks a BSF jawan or an office. Then he has to protect himself and fire in self-defence." The deal was signed in the presence of the Home Ministers from both countries, and was signed by Maj. Gen. Anwar Hussain, Director General of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Raman Srivastava, Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF).
India has been under pressure by the New York-based NGO, Human Rights Watch to investigate killings of Bangladeshis by the Indian BSF. Bangladesh has long requested that lethal weapons not be used in response to unauthorised border crossings. It was also reported that the border guards will make efforts to exchange information regarding ‘vulnerable areas’, to better manage the border through joint patrols, though agents will be unable to cross the border. Further, a joint plan was also signed between the two countries regarding smuggling and human trafficking in the border region.
Mr. Chidambaram stated that incidents of shootings had already declined from 33 last year to seven this year, following instructions to not shoot unarmed persons attempting to cross the border. He also mentioned that recent efforts had been made to develop border infrastructure between the two countries, including the proposal for seven integrated check posts [ICPs], and the recent opening of a Land Customs Station at Fulbari-Banglabandha in January 2011.
During the talks, the two countries also discussed the existing Indira-Mujib Accord of 1974, and the ongoing issues surrounding the sections of undemarcated border and enclaves within each country. It is reported that the official count of the enclaves has been completed (51 in Bangladesh and 111 in India), including a census of the population residing within them. Leading up to this recent meeting, there was a belief that the two parties would address the institution of the provisions of the 1974 accord, which were never ratified by India. These accords provided for the demarcation of the boundary which would see the enclaves handed over to the respective states. However it appears a decision over the 1974 accords was not reached, and discussions will continue at a later date.
‘BGB-BSF border management plan signed’, The New Nation, 31 July 2011; ‘Bangladesh, India ink border deal’, Haroon Habib, The Hindu, 31 July 2011