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Bangladesh objects border fencing halts since 2016

Naginimora
Representative image

* Will Rajnath talk the issue with Dhaka?
* 3.35-km stretch still wide open on Assam side

STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI, July 11: Though fencing of the largely porous Indo-Bangladesh border has been long overdue since 2016, it is really a matter of concern that as much as 3.35-km stretch on the Assam side is still being left wide open. The manner in which many contentious bilateral issues have been kept pending over the years, it is apprehended that total sealing of the border would also meet the same fate unless of course, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh takes up the matter with the Government of Bangladesh during his three-day visit to the neighbouring country slated to commence from July 13.
The Indo-Bangladesh border (Assam portion) stretches to about 267 km over uneven terrain and water bodies.

However, the reason why the 3.35-km stretch in Karimganj district (Assam) is still wide open is due to the objection raised by the BGB (Border Guards Bangladesh) over “erection of reference pillars in that area”. The fencing work in this stretch has remained untouched since 2016.

When contacted the Deputy Commissioner of Karimganj, Pradip Kumar Talukdar said, “There has been no fencing in that area due to the BGB objection. However, the issue has been brought to the notice of the higher authorities.”

Meanwhile, the State Government has already taken up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which has reviewed the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Besides, the issue has wider political ramifications with barely nine months left for the Lok Sabha polls in April-May 2019. In fact, one of the main political planks of the BJP during the run-up to the 2014 general elections was that if voted to power the Indo-Bangladesh border would be totally sealed. The BJP-AGP-BPF combine also blew the same bugle during the pre-poll campaign in Assam in 2016.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had announced that sealing of the Indo-Bangladesh border would be completed by December this year. He further said the riverine border would be sealed with non-physical barriers while the land border would be secured with ‘smart fencing’. This will not only stop illegal influx but also curb other illegal cross-border activities like cattle and arms smuggling, he stressed.

Even the Assam Accord of 1985 envisaged the sealing of the Bangladesh border but this was not accomplished for various reasons.

The one-year deadline for completing this task was set up in 2016 by the Central government. But this target could not be met.