Rangpur (Bangladesh): Bangladesh's border force on Monday described smuggling of cattle, drugs, narcotics and arms at the Indo-Bangla frontier as a "major challenge" and sought greater cooperation from their Indian counterpart to crackdown on smugglers.
Brigadier Jalal Gani, Commander of the North West Region, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), however, said that several poor people earn their livelihood through smuggling and killing them is not the solution.
"Smuggling of cattle, drugs and narcotics, leather, arms and ammunition has been a major challenge for the border guarding forces of the two countries. Smugglers are very poor people. For their livelihood they go for smuggling and not for leading a lavish lifestyle," Gani said.
Calling for the greater cooperation between the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Brigadier Gani said that although there have been many positive outcomes in border management over the years, some ground remains to be covered.
Gani said that there should be zero tolerance for killing and the two forces should help each other.
"We always try to catch them (smugglers), investigate and then handover them to the concerned officials and follow procedures.
"The BSF also does the same thing but in some cases, killing of smugglers takes place. This should be stopped," Gani said.
"This is our request that we should follow the law of the land. Killing is not the solution," the BGB commander told a group of visiting Indian journalists.
His remarks came a month after the 48th bi-annual Director General-level talks between the BSF and the BGB in Dhaka wherein it was decided to enhance cooperation to check crime and smuggling of cattle and narcotics across the 4,096-km frontier shared by the neighbours.
In the meeting, the BSF and the BGB decided to undertake joint efforts to reduce border killing incidents.
The BGB claims that this year 15 Bangladeshi nationals have been killed and 12 injured till July 8 by the border force. Last year, six people were killed and 25 others injured.
The BSF maintains that it fires only when a situation turns "ugly" and lives of its troops are in danger.
Talking to the media, Ajmal Singh, IG, North Frontier, BSF, said that the "we have adopted a non-lethal strategy according to which the usage of lethal weapon is minimum".
"Bangladesh is a friendly country, the basic problem we are facing along the border is illegal infiltration, movement of criminals, cattle smuggling, fake currency, narcotics, arms and ammunition.
"Forces open fire only when the situation goes out of hand, otherwise normal procedure is followed to nab the smugglers who are then handed over to the police," he said.
When asked about the killing of the BSF officials by the criminals along the border, the Bangladesh commander said that he is aware about this but he doesn't have any data about the injuries and killing of the BSF officials.
"We should interact with border people and try to address their concerns," he said.
The BSF and the BGB interact a lot, hold regular conferences and have achieved a lot in terms of enhancing the bilateral ties and border management, the officer said.
"The effects of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) have been very positive. The smugglers and criminals know that they cannot create chaos and confusion among the two border guarding forces of India and Bangladesh. I must say that CBMs have been very effective for the forces," he said.
"The poor people living along the border areas are engaged in such activities. So bringing down smuggling to zero is very difficult," he said, adding that no one supports or encourages smuggling but there should be no killing of smugglers.
"There is a nexus between smugglers from both the sides. Only those from Bangladesh alone cannot carry out the smuggling activities. We should stop these illegal activities at the starting point," Gani said.
"In our area, regarding the spread of militants, we remain extra cautious and there are no reports of their activities. There are so many agencies to tackle their spread. We closely cooperate with one another, he said.
The incidents of smuggling are going down which is a very positive sign, he said. "We should eradicate it from the root," he said.