NEW Delhi, which has so far repeatedly given assurances of ending death along the Bangladesh-India frontiers and showing restraints and using non-lethal weapons in control but has hardly seemed to be sincere about keeping its word, now appears to have made a policy shift. While close to 50 Bangladeshis have, as a rights group in Bangladesh says, died at the hands of India’s Border Security Force in 2020, another rights group estimates that Indian border forces have killed 1,236 Bangladeshis in the frontiers since 2000. This does not only suggest that the Bangladesh-India border stretching 4,156 kilometres is one of the deadliest borders, but this also suggests that New Delhi has almost always made rhetorical promises and has never been sincere about Dhaka’s call for an end to border death. Now saying that every death is regrettable, India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, on his visit to Dhaka for a day on Thursday, at a press conference says that death along the border happens owing to crimes. Saying that ‘no crime, no border death’, he says that the two sides have discussed the issue and hopes that if the two sides can get it right, the problem can be effectively attended to.
New Delhi, which has so far promised steps to completely end death along the border, appears to have decided to justify death along the border by putting everything down to crimes and saying that many of the incidents take place ‘fairly deep inside India’. This is a major shift in its policy and leaves a wide gap between what it has so far said, and promised, and what it now says. Dhaka should in no way agree the proposition. Instead of putting in efforts to end border death, New Delhi seems to be trying to shirk its responsibility for the death of Bangladeshis that has happened at the hands of the Indian guards along the border for years using the subterfuge of words and ill-logic. Even if trespass happens in the international border, the international law offers a clear-cut redress for that, which is detaining the offenders and putting them on trial but is in no way shooting into the offenders, causing their death. Besides, there are incidents as reported by the media in the past where Indian guards have shot into Bangladeshis, staying inside the Bangladesh territory, from the other side of the border and even by intruding into Bangladesh. Discussions, meanwhile, hardly attend to such problems as all it mostly warrants is the political will, which appears to have so far been missing on part of New Delhi.
New Delhi has a history of not resolving prickly issues with Dhaka. The prime issues of this nature are the resolution of border death and the signing of water sharing agreement on the water of the River Teesta. New Delhi has, as India’s foreign minister says, also not changed its position on the Teesta water this time too. Dhaka must not, therefore, agree to the shift in policy on border control that New Delhi this time has come up with and must push for India’s steps to stop death of Bangladeshis along the frontiers.
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