Ray of Hope

Meeting between DGs of BSF and Pakistan Rangers was fruitful

Dilip Kumar Mekala

The biggest achievement of the director general (DG) level talks between Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers is the fact that it happened at all, despite the tension at the border. And the key takeaway from the meeting was the agreement between the two border guarding forces to improve ways to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border regions. According to top BSF officers, the two sides agreed on various confidence building measures (CBMs) including the possibility for joint patrolling along the border.

Home minister Rajnath Singh with DG Pakistan Rangers Major General Umar Farooq Burki and DG BSF D. K. Pathak

The meeting between the national security advisors of India and Pakistan was cancelled weeks before this DG level meet of the border guarding forces was to happen.

The Pakistan Rangers were on a four-day visit to India from 9-12 September 2015. Formal talks between the BSF and Pakistan Rangers began on 10 September at BSF headquarters, New Delhi. Major General Umar Farooq Burki, director general, Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) led a 16 member Pakistani delegation to India. The 23-member Indian delegation was led by D. K. Pathak, IPS, DG, BSF. Both the delegations also had two representatives from respective home and foreign ministries along with officers from narcotics control and survey department.

Major General Burki also called on the union home minister Rajnath Singh during his visit to New Delhi. Minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, union home secretary, Rajiv Mehrishi and senior officers of MHA and BSF were also present on the occasion. After the meeting, Singh said that India always wanted dialogue with Pakistan to continue, and Ufa meeting was a part of the same initiative. Unfortunately, National Security Advisor level talks between the two nations could not be held, he added. Singh has also said that India always wanted good cordial relations with Pakistan and the government follows former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee’s policy of peace with neighbours as ‘friends can be changed but neighbours cannot be changed’.

Singh complimented both border guarding forces for having a meaningful interaction, and said that forces or civilians should not be targeted on either side. He said that both the countries are affected by terrorism and all countries have to cooperate to fight this evil.

While responding, the Director General, Pakistan Rangers, Maj. Gen. Burki said that Pakistan also wanted to have good cordial relations with India and will follow the decisions taken in the meeting. He said that there could have been some incidents at the border where firing took place due to misunderstanding or by mistake. He mentioned that both sides hope to defuse the situation in future amicably.

The BSF stated that the DG-level talks were held in a constructive atmosphere. “The need for cooperation to maintain the sanctity of the borders was stressed upon,” emphasised the joint statement. However, the key issues on the terminology were not ironed out. While the BSF insisted on the term ‘International Border (IB)’, Pakistan preferred the term ‘Working Border’. The joint statement had no mention of either IB or the working border - maintaining the previous status quo. The BSF officers believe that Rangers use ‘working border’ in order to keep the dispute alive along the border.

The allegations from both sides blaming each other for encroachments also remained without any solution. Since there was no formal survey on the issue of encroachments along International Border/ working border, the issues remained alive in the meeting.

The meeting had also discussed specific issues of concern. Incidents of firing at the borders, smuggling of narcotics, infiltration attempts and defence construction activities were discussed. The BSF and Rangers decided to coordinate with each other and ensure there is no infiltration from either side. However, the Rangers maintain that since the gates and fences are on the Indian side, access control is more in the hands of the BSF. The Indian side can show more effectiveness, they maintain.

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