Event ReportsPublished on Mar 19, 2010
The visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had put relations on a higher plane and the overall situation in Bangladesh had turned for the better in 2006
India declares unilateral ceasefire on Indo-Bangladesh borders

India said it was considering unilateral ceasefire on its borders with Bangladesh for one year. This was announced by Union Home Secretary G K Pillai inaugurating a two-day India-Bangladesh Dialogue on Security which began on March 19, 2010 at the ORF campus in New Delhi.

Emphasizing the importance of this window of opportunity, Mr. Pillai said both countries would have to move fast as time was critical. He suggested that specific joint task forces be set up for land boundary as well as maritime disputes. The Home Secretary also hinted at the possibility of relaxed visa norms.

The delegation from Bangladesh was led by Mr. Farooq Sobhan, President Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. The ORF delegation was headed by Amb. M.K Rasgotra, President, ORF Centre for International Relations.

Four papers were presented during the conference--on ?Radicalization, militancy and terrorism in Bangladesh? by Mr. Humayun Kabir and Mr. Shahab Enam Khan, ?Radicalization and terrorism in India: Role of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba? by Mr. Wilson John,? The North-east factor in Indo-Bangladesh relations: The security factor? by Dr Sreeradha Datta and ?Combating Terrorism: regional cooperation in South Asia? by Ms Zohra Akhter.

Regional security and counter-terrorism cooperation were flagged as key issues. The discussion focused on the widespread linkages between different terrorist, insurgent and criminal groups. It was pointed out that indoctrination of the young was done using concepts like puritanical reform and injustice suffered by Palestine and that this had less to do with theology, more with politics and lack of development.

The nexus with the underworld including smuggling and narcotics operations etc were also explored and it was mentioned that these form a mutually nourishing supply network. The problems included dearth of data, state of denial and that there had been no reasonable argument against irrational rhetoric as was characteristic of such organizations. It was mentioned that the problems were also with the drivers, facilitators who reinterpret long standing beliefs and religious sentiments in the way which suited their purpose

Specific organizations such as Hizb ut Tahrir and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba were discussed and it was mentioned that Hizb ut Tahrir was targeting children of the elite and hence the theory of a deprived individual resorting to arms in absence of other options was not applicable.


Demography and migration problems formed part of the discussions. The Indian participants felt that illegal migration needed to be recognized by Bangladesh and given due consideration. It was said in the same context that a large portion of the ULFA cadre now comprised of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. One participant said the people of Assam had a legitimate fear of being reduced to a minority in their own land. Doubts were expressed whether a move towards economic integration would be possible in the absence of a labour market movement and the issue of labour permits was deliberated upon. There was emphasis on the differentiation between extradition and deportation citing the need for an extradition system. Water was also mentioned as a concern during the talks

It was highlighted that border management was a critical issue with multi-faceted ramifications which impinged on all aspects of bilateral relations. The practical purpose of the barbed wire fence was questioned given that there were various obvious points of passage between the two countries. The sensitisation of the border forces including the use of non-lethal weapons was talked about. It was mentioned that both countries had asymmetric economies therefore trade imbalances were natural. Issues of illegal goods and trading were raised and it was mentioned that in the US$3 billion-bilateral trade, close to US$1.5 billion was illegal. It was mentioned that issues like cattle export were emotive and needed to be handled carefully.


Outlining the roadmap for future cooperation it was said that diplomatic relations should go beyond governments and regime compatibility and that a structure should be put in place which would function irrespective of changes in the leadership. It was mentioned that there should be a creation of new template with respect to borders with more investments on the border areas and opening up of frontiers. It was also mentioned that it was important for the media to be brought into the larger perspective, to change the way they think and that perceived fears on both sides needed to be dispelled.

The entire meeting was summed up with the words of the Home Secretary who said that India and Bangladesh were at the cusp of a real change with the urgent need to move fast to capitalize on the situation.

The report has been prepared by Akhilesh Variar, Research Intern, ORF

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