India to declare unilateral no-fire along Bangla border

Express News Service : New Delhi, Sat Mar 20 2010, 02:51 hrs

In a sign that reflects the growing bonhomie between New Delhi and Dhaka, the Indian government is working on a plan to declare a unilateral “no-fire” along its border with Bangladesh for a year. Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said on Friday that this was being done to avoid deaths of civilians in cross-firing.

“We are considering unilateral no firing on the border for one year. The modalities are being worked out,” Pillai said at the India-Bangladesh Security Dialogue organised by the Observer Research Foundation. Saying that confidence-building measures should continue from both sides, Pillai said India was of the view that killing of civilians in border cross-firing was “a very sensitive” issue in Bangladesh.

He also hinted that there could be “massive” visa relaxation for Bangladeshis who held multiple-entry visas and had travelled to India earlier. “We are also considering removing Bangladesh from the list of six to eight countries where prior clearance from the government is needed to give visas,” he said.

Terming Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to India as a milestone, Pillai stressed that the gains would remain on paper unless quickly translated on the ground. “We need to move very fast. I don’t think this window of opportunity will last forever. The next nine months are going to be critical. If we miss the bus in nine months, we may find ourselves climbing the mountain again.”

He, however, dismissed reports that the BSF had made any transgression along the Bangladeah border earlier this month. Pillai said some Indian men who had gone fishing had come under fire and there was retaliatory fire from the Indian side.

Pillai said the boundary dispute related to only 6.1 km of the 4,095 km border between the two countries, but there had been no progress in the last 10 years to solve the problem. He suggested the creation of a joint task force with a mandate to solve the boundary dispute by the end of this year or early next year.

20 March, 2010