India and Bangladesh are expected to hold their Director General-level border talks in Guwahati later this month, the first time the biannual meeting will be held outside Delhi, official sources said. The 51st edition of these high-level talks will be held between the Border Security Force (BSF) and its counterpart Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) beginning December 22. Discussions on curbing a variety of border crimes and enhancing cooperation between the two countries are expected to be held for four days.
Assam's capital is the base for BSF's Guwahati frontier headquarters whose troops guard 495 km of the 4,096 km-long India-Bangladesh border that runs along the state and some parts of West Bengal. A special BSF water wing that keeps vigil along the riverine border areas, including Dhubri in Assam, is under the command of this frontier of the border force.
This is the first time since these biannual talks began in 1993 that they are being held outside Delhi, the sources said. The meeting being held near the border may also give an opportunity for the brass of the two sides to jointly visit some border areas in Assam, they said, stating the reason behind moving the talks outside Delhi.
The Director General-level talks were held annually between 1975 and 1992 but they were made biannual in 1993 with either side alternatively travelling to the national capitals of New Delhi and Dhaka. A delegation led by BSF Director General Rakesh Asthana had visited Dhaka for these talks in September.
Asthana will lead the talks again with his BGB counterpart Maj Gen Shafeenul Islam, the sources said. The current relations between the two countries and the forces are very good and both sides will take them forward during these talks, officials said.
While the Indian side is expected to take up the issue of joint border security management, fencing of unfenced areas and undertaking effective steps to curb cross-border crimes, the Bangladeshi border force is expected to take up issues related to the killing of its people along the front. During the last meeting, Asthana had said the killing of criminals along the front will be "made to reduce significantly" even as he reiterated that his troops only fire when their lives are endangered by cross-border miscreants.
He had said death or apprehension of criminals on the border was "irrespective of nationalities". "BSF personnel fire with non-lethal weapon only in self-defence when they are surrounded by a large number of miscreants armed with dah (cleaver-shaped knife), sticks, etc., and their lives are endangered," he was quoted as saying by a BSF spokesperson.
The two sides are also expected to firm up new standard operating procedures (SOPs) in view of the crossing over of a "significant" number of mentally challenged Indian nationals to Bangladesh, a plan mooted by the BSF chief. The two forces, after the Dhaka talks in September, had also decided to "share real-time information" with each other expeditiously through formal or informal channels regarding smuggling of narcotics and human trafficking. It was also decided to share information regarding fake Indian currency notes, cattle, arms, ammunition, explosives, anti-social elements, activities of Indian Insurgent Groups and breach or damage of the border fence.