In a significant development, chiefs of India and Bangladesh border guarding forces have decided to make illegal cross infiltration of Rohingya refugees through the international land route in the northeast a key, common focus area. The two armed forces will work together to prevent the Rohingya people - members of a Muslim minority from Myanmar - from entering India from Bangladesh refugee camps, and vice-versa.
A joint statement to this effect was given by the Director Generals of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) at a press briefing on the sidelines of India-Bangladesh border security talks held in Guwahati on Friday.
"We are not denying that Rohingyas are entering illegally. In fact, they are getting caught by the police in different state. The BSF and the BGB, both, are committed to stop both their in-filtration and ex-filtration through joint action. The BSF and the BGB are concerned about it and we have discussed preventive measures," BSF chief Rakesh Asthana said.
"BSF and BGB have decided to undertake joint border patrolling at night in the vulnerable pocket," Mr Asthana added.
However, BGB chief Major general Islam claimed that there is no infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals into India.
The BSF has claimed that they have apprehended 3204 people across the Indo-Bangladesh this year.
"You need to revisit your perception that large number of Bangladeshi are illegally crossing. If you see GDP growth rate of Bangladesh you will find that we are on a steady uprising trend. Now the GDP is close to $2300. So there is no reason for Bangladeshis to cross the border be it for jobs or any other reason," Major General Islam said.
He added, "People do come to India with valid document for treatment or tourism and not for work. It has come to notice recently 25 fisherman had come to India from Bangladesh with valid documents however while they were going back to their country they were apprehended at the border. There is no infiltration from Bangladesh."
When asked if the BGB has witnessed any unusual movement of people post Assam coming with National Register of Citizens (NRC) last year, he said that NRC is India's issue and does not concern Bangladesh.
In the past two years, an estimated 150 Rohingya have been apprehended from different northeastern states, particularly Assam and Tripura, while trying to illegally cross the Indo-Bangladesh border. In all these cases, the Rohingyas did not have any valid travel documents, and this has become a growing security concern.
In the past one month alone, at least 35 people from Myanmar, including Rohingyas, have been caught in different parts of northeastern India, official sources said.
BGB's Major General Md Shafeenul Islam said Rohingyas are regularly caught trying to escape the Cox Bazaar camps along Bangladesh's border with Myanmar - their home country.
"Now, there are Rohingyas settlements here in India, and not only here but in other Asian countries, including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia as well. They have cards issued by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees... those in Indian Rohingya settlements always try to enter Bangladesh to meet their relatives in the camps there... The only solution is that they go back to their country," he said.
The three-day 51st Director General-level Border Coordination Conference between the BSF and the BGB started in Guwahati on December 22. This is the first time the bi-annual meeting was held outside Delhi, which farmers have gheraoed for the last month in protest against three laws.
The last BS-FBGB conference was held from September 16 to 19 in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.