Thursday, February 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Bangladesh for talks on border stand-off
Dhaka should take back migrants: Advani
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
A forward movement took place this evening on the six-day stalemate over the tensions in New Delhi-Dhaka relations on the issue of 213 illegal Bangladeshi migrants as Dhaka conveyed its intent to send its Foreign Minister here to resolve the crisis.

Bangladesh High Commissioner here called on External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha this evening and conveyed to him Dhaka’s move to send Foreign Minister Mohammed Morshed Khan here to settle the issue amicably.

The Ministry of External Affairs tonight stated that Mr Sinha welcomed Dhaka’s move and looked forward to meeting his Bangladeshi counterpart.

It is expected that the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister’s visit may materialise “within a week”. The sudden softening in Bangladesh stand is understood to have come following a firm stance by Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister L K Advani that the 213 “illegal” immigrants would not be allowed to enter the Indian territory.

Till this afternoon, Dhaka had made no secret of its stand, which was increasingly toughening, on the issue.

The Ministry of External Affairs today confirmed that Begum Zia’s government had turned down India’s plea for one-by-one joint verification by India and Bangladesh of the 213 persons, stranded on zero line in the Satgachi area of Cooch Behar district in West Bengal for the past six days.

India has refused to let them enter its territory, claiming that they were Bangladeshis and “illegal migrants” while Dhaka’s claim is that the stranded people are Indians.

To resolve this issue, New Delhi had proposed a joint verification of the stranded people by the Border Security Force (BSF) or Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) or alternatively by the press of the two countries. Dhaka has shot down both the proposals, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed today.

The Indian proposals were rejected after flag meetings between the BSF and BDR on February 1 and 2 on the issue failed to resolve the issue.

Till this evening, Dhaka was not prepared to budge from its oft-repeated position that it had nothing to do with the stranded men, women and children. Dhaka’s late evening offer of trying to resolve the issue through a political dialogue would go a long way in easing the tense situation, sources said.

The Vajpayee government was worried over the incident which was fast turning into a humanitarian crisis. It was concerned over the increasingly hostile attitude of the Government of Begum Zia who swept the parliamentary elections last year on the hate-India plank.

Recently, her government had declined to give permission to the CII to hold a trade and commerce exhibition in Dhaka on flimsy grounds.

On its part, the Vajpayee government, has allowed some NGOs to extend humanitarian assistance to the stranded people. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Government of India is closely monitoring the situation surrounding the Satgachi area and has intensified patrolling in the area to check any further infiltration or “push-in activities by the Bangladesh Rifles”.

In response to the intensified patrolling by the BSF, the BDR has moved in some reinforcements in areas falling under Cooch Behar. The matter has already been taken up with the Bangladesh Government through diplomatic channels and Dhaka’s response came late this evening.

Mr L K Advani, is being kept updated on the Indo-Bangladesh developments. The Ministry of External Affairs here asserts that it was committed to resolving the current crisis diplomatically and amicably.

KOLKATA (PTI): Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on Wednesday asked Bangladesh to take back the 213 illegal immigrants stranded in no-man’s land along the border with West Bengal and made it clear that millions of illegal migrants from the neighbouring country could not stay in India permanently.

“We will urge the Government of Bangladesh to cooperate in the matter and see that (the 213) illegal immigrants are taken back by Bangladesh,” Mr Advani told a press conference in Singapore rounding up his two-nation tour.

He said certain steps had been taken to check illegal immigration in pursuance to decisions of a meeting of chiefs of police and security agencies in New Delhi a couple of months ago.” This is a reaction” to these steps. “The matter should be based on truth. It cannot be based on total lies and untruth,” Mr Advani said.

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