DHAKA agreeing to New Delhi’s request to allow India to erect new fencing ahead of the present barbed-wire fences, which means inside 150 metres and closer to the international border, or the actual border called ‘zero line’, is ominous. India, which shares a 4,096km border with Bangladesh, is reported to have already erected fencing along 79 per cent of the border, beginning towards the end of the 1980s, with some portion left not to be fenced because of river and densely forrested areas. Even after this, while it would, on part of India, constitute a violation, as keeping to the international law, no structures could be erected at a minimum of 150 metres from the actual border, it would also be dishonouring the agreement that Dhaka made in principle at the home secretary-level talks in December 2009 to allow border fencing within 150 yards from the zero line in certain patches where population extends right up to the zero line provided it is necessitated by ‘humanitarian concerns and geographical realities.’ Such an agreement between Dhaka and Delhi has already been in deviation from the Indo-Bangladesh Boundary Agreement 1974 which restricted any construction within 150 years of the zero line.
The reason that India has given for such fencing closer to the international border is to curb cross-border crimes and smuggling instances, especially illegal cattle trading, and to instil a sense of security in the border population. But such a move is highly unlikely to stop cattle trading. Cattle traders, of both the countries, cut through the towering razor-wire fencing that snakes along the border. And with 79 per cent of border already being sealed, cross-border crimes and cattle smuggling have not stopped, with Indian border guards also continuing to kill unarmed Bangladeshi civilians on the excuse of cattle trading and even to trespass into the Bangladesh territory, as, at times, has been reported. Ways to stop such menace, cross-border crimes, smuggling and other such affairs, have other means that require political will of both the countries, especially of India. In such a situation, it seems that Dhaka agrees to such requests of Delhi in a show of friendliness while Delhi has always been hostile about the resolution of some prickly issues that have only harmed Bangladesh’s interest. And this has been possible because of the incumbent’s capitualistic foreign policy, especially towards India.
While Bangladesh has given enough to India, the most recent one being transshipment of goods from one part of India to another through the Bangladesh territory, that too for a negligible amount of fee, India has hardly lifted its finger in resolving the issues of Ganges water flow, Teesta water sharing and border killing. Delhi’s unfriendly attitude has already created a pervasive public sentiment in Bangladesh against India and Dhaka’s conceding to Delhi’s unjust requests one after another has only consolidated that sentiment. The government, under the circumstances, must not allow India to raise fencing close to the international border.
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