NEW DELHI: Demonetisation, regular diplomatic exchanges, liberal visa policy and Bangladesh’s booming economy have drastically reduced illegal migration and smuggling at the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Official data accessed by The Sunday Standard, along with accounts of several senior officials, shows that instances of smuggling of cattle, fake currency, drugs, arms and ammunition, have reduced drastically over the last few years.
Speaking about the reduction in the number of illegal migrants, a Ministry of External Affairs official attributed it to a more liberalised visa policy. “As far as reduction in illegal migrants is considered, it has got to do with the fact that India has liberalised its visa policy for Bangladesh. We are giving multiple entry tourist visas free of cost,” the official said.
Former Deputy High Commissioner to Bangladesh Sarvajeet Chakravarty added another reason. “Bangladesh’s economy has improved quite dramatically. It is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia registering a growth rate of about 8 per cent, which is the same as ours.
In a smaller population size, the impact is greater. It is no longer in the category of least developing countries. Now Indian and Bangladeshi economies are better linked and both sides are on a winning streak,” he said.
Hostilities on the border have also reduced. Take the number of intruders apprehended. From 5546 intruders being apprehended in 2013, the number came down to 3001 in 2017. In the first six months of this year only 1471 intruders have been apprehended. This year, only one intruder has been killed at the border. “In 2017, 2016 and 2015, there were 14, 18 and 26 such killings respectively. Now there are clear instructions against violence,” said a senior BSF official, the security force which guards the border.
The same is true of recovery of arms and ammunition. Thousands of AK series assault rifles and assorted ammunition used to be recovered from the border each year. In 2014, the total ammunition was 5595, but it has come down to 173 in 2017. So far this year only 74 ammunition have been apprehended at the border.
A senior home ministry official said “the fact that there is no longer any border dispute is a big factor why Bangladesh has perhaps become our best neighbour.”
“The Bangladesh Border guards and BSF personnel are working in a cooperative mode and not in confrontation at any level unlike the India-Pakistan border. Bangladesh refused to use its territory to harbour terrorists. Insurgent leaders like Anup Chetia have been returned. Our relations with the soldiers on the other side have been improving constantly for the past one decade,” Chakravarty said.
“Regular exchange of visits from the Prime Minister downwards has also helped. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Modi both visited Bangladesh and there were reciprocal visits from their side. So the level of understanding is much better,” he added. India shares a 4,096-km border with Bangladesh. West Bengal has the longest at 2,216 km, followed by Tripura 856 km, Meghalaya 443 km, Mizoram 318 km and Assam 263 km.