India must stop border killing for the sake of bilateral relations

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen has finally raised concern over the killing of Bangladeshi civilians on the border by Indian Border Security Force (BSF). At a news conference organised for the prime minister on her visit to the United Arab Emirates last Sunday, Abdul Momen said India had pledged that not one person should die on the border. Unfortunately, people were killed on the border, so we are concerned.

The concern of the foreign minister was not his or the prime minister’s concern alone. It is a concern of 170 million people of the country. Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) director general major general Safinul Islam recently told in a press briefing as many as 35 Bangladeshi nationals were killed in the shootings by BSF in 2019. In the previous year, the number was only 3. On the first 10 days of this year, BSF shot dead three people- one in Thakurgaon and two in Shibganj of Chapainawabganj.

The BSF said the victims were smugglers and attacked the Indian jawans (soldiers). They were killed in a counter attack from the BSF members. The statement requires proof. A girl named Felani was killed by BSF personnel while crossing the barbed fence few years ago. Such incidents have been taking place still now.

The border guards are responsible to prevent various crimes, including smuggling and trafficking along the border. That does not mean they can shoot anyone suspected of smuggling dead.

Smuggling can be stopped without using lethal weapons and that is the practice of the civilised world. Both the countries pledged not to use fatal weapons many times at the meeting of the border guards. The joint statement of the BGB and BSF meetings issued at every meeting says it was agreed that no lethal weapons would be used along the border. Despite that, continued killings on the border is very unfortunate.

The minister said India has been informed about Bangladesh's concerns over border killings. However, he did not elaborate about India’s response regarding the matter. It is very unfortunate that the killing on the border continues and Bangladesh simply keeps expressing its concern. There is no evidence till now of India taking Bangladesh’s concern over killing on borders into account.

India is Bangladesh's closest neighbour and friend. There are many bilateral issues between the two countries, and India will have to take border killings issue seriously for the sake of the bilateral relations. Although both the countries officially say their relations are better than ever in the past, border killings are rising. This is contradictory.

At the press conference, the foreign minister criticised the media of the two countries. He said, a number of news media have created an embarrassing situation. In fact, any responsible media house should neither create embarrassing situations nor hiding the issues of bilateral relations.

It is the responsibility of the media houses to highlight the hard facts truth and in some cases to analyse this. It serves the purpose of the policy-makers for any country ultimately. Whether the bilateral relationship is frigid or warm, it does not depend only on the minister's statement or the media reports. It mostly depends on how both the countries are dealing with each other’s concern.

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