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Friday, March 22, 2013 4:42:19 PM (IST)  

India, Bangladesh to have border retreat ceremony

New Delhi, Mar 22 (IANS): The retreat ceremony along India's western border in Wagah is set to be replicated on the country's eastern border too.

India and Bangladesh Friday agreed to "put in place" within a month arrangements for ceremonial lowering of flags at Petrapole-Benapole border outpost in West Bengal.

The decision was announced at the end of a six-day border coordination conference between the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).

The BSF delegation was led by Director General Subhash Joshi while the BGB team was headed by Director General Major-General Aziz Ahmed.

Joshi said that apart from Petrapole-Benapole, three more outposts along the border -- Changrabandha-Burimari, Agartala check post-Akhaura and Phulbari-Banglabandha -- were identified for starting joint retreat ceremony in a phased manner.

He said the retreat ceremony at Petrapole-Benapole will be in place within a month.

The move is part of the confidence-building measures between the two forces and is expected to boost tourism.

While Petrapole, Changrabandha and Phulbari are in West Bengal, Agartala check post is in Tripura.

BSF officials said the joint retreat ceremony along Bangladesh border might not see the kind of foot-stomping witnessed between Indian and Paksitani troopers at the Attari-Wagah border in Punjab.

During the talks, the BGB expressed "deep concern" over deaths and injury of Bangladeshis at the border. The BSF assured BGB of taking all possible measures to make sure such incidents did not happen again.

The two sides also identified 175 patches along the border for increased patrolling where fencing was not possible.

"We have laid stress on simultaneous patrolling on both sides," Joshi said.

He said most of criminal activity, including smuggling of currency, cattle or narcotics, took place at night.

"There will be joint domination of vulnerable areas," he said.

Joshi said about 27 percent of India's border with Bangladesh could not be fenced due to riverine terrain and other difficult geographical features.

He said fencing work was sanctioned for 3,436 km of the 4,096-km border with Bangladesh and 2,525 km had been fenced.

He said work was in progress for fencing on 365 km and the pending work was expected to be completed in a year or two.

During the meeting, Joshi emphasised the need for early fencing of unfenced patches prone to smuggling.

The two sides agreed to complete the joint verification of these patches at the earliest.

Joshi said the use of non-lethal weapons by the BSF while on patrol had been "an unqualified success" and the force would try to have more such weapons.

"Initially there was some reservation but there is wide acceptance," he said and added that the BSF was looking for more such devices including pump action guns.

"So-called killings have come down drastically," he said.

Joshi said the discussions were "very fruitful" and bonds between the two forces had grown in the past three years and "over 250 people had either surrendered or were apprehended on border."

Answering queries, Ahmed said Bangladesh had assured India it did not and would not harbour any anti-India elements.

He said the assurance was conveyed during interactions of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with the Indian leadership.

A joint statement at the end of talks said the two sides discussed various measures to curb trans-border crimes and violence on border and agreed to increase joint patrolling to prevent movement of criminals, smugglers and insurgents.

"Both the DGs agreed to increase the number of simultaneous coordinated patrols in vulnerable areas, especially during night, sharing of intelligence and frequency of meetings between field level functionaries for curbing trans-border criminal activities," the statement said.

On illegal border crossings and trafficking, the two sides agreed to maintain the sanctity of the International Border.

It said both sides decided to share real time intelligence on security issues and agreed to operationalise the Joint Task Force on fake Indian currency notes at the earliest.

The two sides also agreed to implement the Coordinated Border Management Plan in letter and spirit.

It said both sides agreed to continue close cooperation, including sharing of actionable information on drug traffickers.

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