NEW DELHI, Dec 20 (IANS): Days after Bangladesh protested the killing of its three citizens in firing by the Border Security Force (BSF) troopers, India Tuesday regretted the casualties but said the BSF acted in self-defence. New Delhi also urged Dhaka to work jointly to control cross-border illegal activities.
"The government of India regrets all incidents of death on the border, of Indian and Bangladesh nationals," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said.
He was reacting to reports of the deaths of three Bangladeshis in firing on the Indian side of the border in two separate incidents in Govindpur in Malda, West Bengal, and Narayanganj in Coochbehar district Dec 16-17.
The spokesperson stressed that the BSF had exercised the "utmost restraint and has resorted to firing in self-defence only in rare cases", with a view to preventing loss of lives in the border areas.
He listed many steps taken by India to prevent such deaths, including strict control on firing, introduction of non-lethal weapons, round-the-clock domination, intensive patrolling and night-time restrictions on the movement of people in the border areas.
The spokesperson pointed out this policy of restraint has unfortunately "emboldened criminal elements who have stepped up their attacks on BSF personnel deployed along the border in order to facilitate their illegal activities".
A number of attacks on BSF personnel and posts along the India-Bangladesh border have been recorded over the last few months, he said.
Referring to the incident at Malda, the spokesperson said a group of around 50-60 miscreants involved in illegal activity not only pelted stones when challenged by the BSF jawan on duty at his post, but also tried to drag him towards the Bangladesh side of the international boundary.
"Sensing imminent danger to his life, his two colleagues fired four rounds in all, resulting in the miscreants fleeing the scene, leaving the BSF jawan behind."
In the incident at Coochbehar, around 30-40 miscreants attacked a BSF jawan with bamboo sticks, when challenged by him. "Sensing imminent danger to his life, the BSF jawan first hurled a non-lethal stun grenade and then as a last resort opened fire at the armed miscreants in self-defence."
He added that one BSF trooper was injured in the incident and is currently in hospital undergoing treatment.
The BSF has ordered an enquiry into these incidents. Last week, Bangladesh had lodged a strong protest with the Indian authorities, condemning the killings of three Bangladeshis and urged New Delhi to conduct an inquiry into the incidents.
India and Bangladesh set up the Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) in July 2011 which envisages joint responsibility of the BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to synergise their efforts to ensure effective control over cross-border illegal activities and crimes as well as for the maintenance of peace and harmony along the border.
"It is the view of the government of India that illegal activities, which sometimes lead to regrettable loss of lives on both sides along the border, need to be addressed through joint collaborative efforts and mechanisms," he said.
The ministry said in this context India has urged Bangladesh to take measures "to restrict the movement of people along the border, especially during night hours" and stressed that it will continue to work with the Bangladesh government to maintain peace and harmony along the border.