Indian Border Security Force (BSF) Director General (DG) Rakesh Asthana said they are working out a strategy to bring down the killings in India-Bangladesh border areas to zero.
"I must say that our policy is to bring down the border killing to zero," he said during a joint press conference after the end of the four-day DG level conference between Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and BSF in Dhaka's BGB headquarters.
The BSF DG claimed that his troops have been instructed to fire as the last resort.
Though BSF has been promising to bring border killing down to zero, the number of Bangladeshis killed at the border by the BSF have been on the rise in recent years.
Data from rights body Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) shows that 15 people had been killed along the Indo-Bangla border in 2018. The number rose to 43 last year. In the first seven months of this year, 29 people were killed.
Most of the victims were unarmed and shot dead.
"Seventy percent of deaths happen between 10pm and 5:30am. Normally, criminals are active during this period. Secondly, the operations have taken place inside Indian territory," Rakesh said, adding that 52 BSF personnel have been injured by criminals operating in both countries.
"However, I am not justifying any killing. I reiterate that we are committed to reduce border killings to zero," he said, adding that India has very good relations with Bangladesh.
"I have joined recently and in the future you will see the progress," the BSF DG added.
A 13-member Bangladesh delegation, led by BGB Director General Maj Gen MdShafeenul Islam, and a six-member Indian delegation, headed by the BSF DG, joined the 50th BGB-BSF DG-level talks.
The DG of BGB said "BSF DG has assured me that he would do his best to ensure that we can avoid the loss of human life."
Asked whether it is BGB's failure that Bangladeshi citizens are going inside Indian territory, Shafeenul said, "Bangladesh has a border of 4,427 km and it has many rivers, marshes, hills and plain lands. We have a border outpost every 5 km. We are trying to guard it with the assistance of technology."
BSF, in response to the concerns expressed by BGB on border deaths, reiterated its policy of use of non-lethal weapons on the India-Bangladesh border and assured that all unarmed and innocent trespassers and victims of human trafficking will be handed over to the BGB personnel.
The Indian border guards launched a systematic campaign against the smuggling of codeine-based cough syrup in the bordering districts of India and will redouble efforts to reduce the cross-border drugs and narcotics smuggling. The BGB appreciated the ongoing concerted efforts of BSF in substantially reducing the smuggling of narcotics.
Both the border guarding forces recognised the increasingly violent attacks on them by cross border cattle smuggling gangs and agreed to exchange intelligence on smuggling syndicates and list of smugglers to make efforts to significantly reduce the smuggling in order to ensure the India-Bangladesh border remain peaceful and secure.
Both the forces agreed that sharing of real-time intelligence is the key to reduce the cross border crimes. BSF has proposed nominating officials -- in both the border guarding forces -- as nodal officials for exchanging such real-time intelligence.
The BSF director general has proposed initiating joint patrols in cattle smuggling / smuggling prone areas in order to reduce the menace of all kinds of smuggling.
Both the forces agreed to resume joint patrolling along the borders, which was stopped after both countries were struck by the Covid-19 pandemic. The meeting also decided to increase interaction between the force members.
Recognising the difficulties in identifying the nationality of mentally challenged persons, BSF has proposed creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address such incidents on the border.
BGB has suggested issuing daily passes for the people residing in the bordering villages so that they can visit their relatives on the Indian side. BSF has welcomed the suggestion and both the forces agreed to work out a mechanism in consultation with agencies/Ministries concerned to facilitate such social visits.
The conference was concluded with the signing of a Joint Record of Discussions (JRD).
Earlier, the BGB-BSF talks were postponed on September 13 as the BSF delegation failed to reach Dhaka due to a technical glitch in their aircraft.