A REGIONAL commander-level talk between the Border Guard Bangladesh and Indian Border Security Forces ended on November 17 with renewed promises to end border killing, but the killing of a Bangladeshi farmer on November 16 and the subsequent delay in handing over the body proves yet again that such talks are mere rhetoric. Family members of the deceased alleged that members of the BSF took away the dead body after he was detained and killed near the Guthuma BGB camp in Feni. Two Bangladeshi cattle traders were killed by BSF members on the Mohishutli border in Lalmonirhat district on November 9. On September 8, when the Bangladesh prime minister was visiting India and both countries agreed to reduce border killings to zero, the BSF shot dead a Bangladeshi schoolboy along the border in Dinajpur. The torture of or shooting at Bangladeshis inside Bangladesh territory in gross violation of the international laws and agreements between the border forces also made the headlines earlier. In what follows, the statement of the BGB delegation chief that both forces maintain a relationship of cordiality and mutual cooperation is contradictory to the reality on the ground and appears to be superficial, ineffective border diplomacy.

The four-day talk that started on November 13 in Kolkata, India, emphasised socio-economic development and awareness building among the people living in border areas, as well as intensifying joint border patrols in the risky and sensitive areas. In the talk, both forces also agreed to hold seminars, symposiums, workshops, friendly matches, and cultural activities to keep their friendship unbroken and increase mutual trust. These are perhaps important steps, but they do not address the BSF’s act of torture of unarmed citizens and resolve the longstanding crisis of border violence. There are internationally accepted border control protocols and bilateral border management instruments — India-Bangladesh Guideline 1975 and the India-Bangladesh Coordinated Border Management Plan — that remain largely ignored. When it was expected that the issue of border killing and the demand for investigation into all allegations of torture and killing would dominate any bilateral discussion, the emphasis on strengthening ‘mutual trust’ between the forces appear as a ploy by India to hide the violent history of border killing and an attempt at avoiding taking responsibility for the deaths of at least 1,236 Bangladesh citizens who were killed in the hands of BSF in 2000–2020.

In the name of border control, the continued use of lethal weapons by the BSF demonstrates that the Indian government lacks interest in cultivating a neighbourly diplomatic relationship with Bangladesh. The government must, under the circumstances, abandon its subservient and appeasement policy with India and sit in bilateral meetings with the sovereign interest of the nation in mind. It must raise the issue of border killing by BSF in international forums, because the inhuman treatment of the unarmed is a clear violation of international laws.

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