BSF to use non-lethal arms along Bangladesh border

With Bangladesh protesting the killing of its nationals in firing by Indian border guards, the Border Security Force said it will use non-lethal weapons against infiltrators along some parts of the India-Bangladesh border.

New Delhi: With Bangladesh Saturday protesting the killing of its nationals in firing by Indian border guards, the Border Security Force (BSF) said it will use non-lethal weapons against infiltrators along some parts of the India-Bangladesh border.

Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) Director General Major General Rafiqul Islam, in a joint press conference here with BSF Director General Raman Srivastava, told reporters that firing by the Indian border guards at "unarmed" civilians was resulting in their death and they wanted the Indians to stop use of lethal weapons.
"It is the BSF which opens fire as a result of which Bangladesh`s unarmed people are being killed. That is where our concerns are," Rafiqul Islam said at the end of a five-day biannual border coordination conference here between the BGB and the BSF.

He said Bangladesh wanted the BSF to follow "rules of engagement, which are internationally accepted".

"Every individual, by whichever name you call them... be it smuggler, drug trafficker... has a right to survive till he or she is found guilty in the court of law. That`s why we have been urging the Indian government and the BSF... please primarily avoid firing that kills people. You arrest them for illegally crossing the border," he added.

Srivastava said that the BSF was inducting non-lethal weapons, primarily to avoid casualties, in areas of the India-Bangladesh border where smuggling bids were made frequently.

The non-lethal weapons would be in addition to the regular, standard weapons of the BSF, namely the INSAS rifles.

"The non-lethal weapons, which we propose, will be in addition to the normal weaponry. There are certain areas along the India-Bangladesh border that are more vulnerable to smuggling. In some of those areas, we are introducing non-lethal weapons on an experimental measure, to see if we can reduce fatalities," said Srivastava.

"Because, once we open fire, it is fatal... the man dies. We are trying non-lethal weapons so that at worst he (infiltrator) is injured and he can be apprehended. We have no desire to kill anybody," he added.
The BSF director general said that at times, Indian troopers had to use the weapons in self-defence. "Even then, we do not want to kill them. We want to apprehend them. That is the reason we want to adopt non-lethal weapons," he added.

Rafiqul Islam said violent incidents involving BSF and BGB personnel had stopped happening after May 2010 and there was more understanding and mutual respect for each other now.

The two forces also exchanged a list of criminals, insurgents and smugglers wanted for standing trial in courts.

"The policy of the Bangladeshi government is that our territory will not be allowed to be used by outfits against India, a friendly country of ours," Rafiqul Islam said. His statement was appreciated by Srivastava.

Asked if the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal and Assam will be sealed in view of the assembly elections in the two Indian states, Srivastava said the Election Commission has directed the same and it would be done.

The BSF and the BGB agreed to organise joint "retreat" ceremony at Petrapole/Benapole integrated check-post on the lines of the ceremony between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers at Attari-Wagah border in Punjab.

"A joint committee of the BSF and the BGB will go into the details and make appropriate recommendations for the proposed ceremony. The same will be implemented subject to approval by both the governments," Srivastava said.

"We will also replicate the ceremony at Akhaura and Phulbari. In a couple of months, we will be able to start," he said, expressing hope that the ceremony would attract tourists.

The two border forces also decided to carry out joint patrolling and to hold regular field commanders` meet to resolve issues at the local level.

Rafiqul Islam thanked India for facilitating 24-hour access to Tin Bigha corridor on "a non-paper accord" basis.

IANS