Event ReportsPublished on Aug 17, 2013
There is an urgent need to accept the reality of cattle trade across the Indo-Bangladesh border and the challenge is to bring about a change in the mindset of people on this issue, according experts and former policy makers.
Cattle smuggling across Indo-Bangla border a security threat: Experts

There is an urgent need to accept the reality of cattle trade across the Indo-Bangladesh border and the challenge is to bring about a change in the mindset of people on this issue, according experts and former policy makers.

This view was expressed by participants at a round table discussion on the "India-Bangladesh Border Management: Challenge from Cattle Smuggling" organised at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, on 9 August 2013.

The discussion was based on the ORF Special Report on the "India-Bangladesh Border Management: Challenge from Cattle Smuggling". Introducing the problem to kick-start the discussion, Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, Associate Fellow, said cattle smuggling is closely linked with the problem of border killings which is a major point of contention between India and Bangladesh.

Noting that the cattle trade is worth $500 annually, Dr Bhattacharjee attributed the illegal business to the Indian ban on the export of cattle while Bangladesh does not treat cattle smuggling from India as a crime. She pointed out that in 1993, Bangladesh gave the cattle trade legal status by making it a source of revenue.

Dr Bhattacharjee said Dhaka fears that any changes in Indian laws could adversely affect its domestic beef industry, reduce revenues and create problems of food security. But for the Indian policy makers, this problem creates an acute dilemma.

Dr Bhattacharjee said there are several reasons why India must take a decision on this issue as soon as possible. The most important reason is to deny criminals and terrorists an easy source of funding and transit mode. It is in India’s own interest to review the current approach to cattle trade across the border and build the much needed political consensus by aligning the national policy with ground realities.

The presentation was followed by the roundtable, chaired by Mr G.K. Pillai, former Union Home Secretary. The four panellists were Mr Mahendra Kumawat, former Director General of the Border Security Force, Mr. R.K. Shukla, former SDG, Sashastra Seema Bal, Amb Veena Sikri, former High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh and Mr. Kishalay Bhattacharjee, a journalist.

Mr. Kumawat said more than 7 lakh cattle are estimated to be smuggled to Bangladesh annually, mainly by organised groups. He said there is also the use of black money in this illegal trade. He said managing the India-Bangladesh border is a major challenge as it runs through hills, forests, rivers, agricultural fields and inhabited areas where population lives along the border. He regretted that governments also ignore to touch this important issue as it has political ramifications.

Amb. Veena Sikri, former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, said that the continuing cattle smuggling is a threat to India’s security itself. She said it is not a new problem, and it existed even before the independence of Bangladesh. She said India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru also had mentioned the problem and the need to find a solution to it. Amb. Sikri said both countries should work hard to find a solution to this problem as early as possible.

Sharing his experiences while covering the area and the border, Mr. Kishalay Bhattacharjee, a journalist, said there is a pattern to the cattle smuggling. Noting that the role of police is crucial in cattle smuggling, he stressed the need for improving police facilities at the border areas.

Mr. G.K. Pillai, in his concluding remarks, said that the reality is that cattle smuggling is continuing despite several steps taken by the government. He noted that this is a huge economy, involving roughly $200-300 million. He said Bangladesh benefits from this illegal trade, done by a cross country network. Mr Pillai said there is a need to study the linkages between the transportation and police. He impressed on the need to raise a public debate on the issue.

Dr C Raja Mohan, Head of the Strategic Studies Programme, ORF, pointed out that while there is progress in the India-Bangladesh relations, the border management between the two countries remains a challenge. He stressed that there is a need to resolve this issue at the political level.

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