BSF-Rangers Agree To Maintain Ceasefire, Initiate Various CBMs

BSF-Rangers Agree To Maintain Ceasefire, Initiate Various CBMs

29 October 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: The Border Security Force (BSF) and Rangers today decided to maintain ceasefire and peace along the International Border (IB) to facilitate return of migrants on both sides to their houses and the farmers to cut their grown up crops. The agreement was reached at a high level flag meeting between BSF and Rangers at Octroi Post in Suchetgarh sector of RS Pura. Sixteen officers from BSF and 15 from Rangers attended the flag meeting, which was held after a long wait of more than a week. This was first high level contact between BSF and Rangers after current hostilities and escalated tensions on the International Border leading to frequent ceasefire violations by the Rangers with mortar shelling and firing on civilians areas and BSF posts in which a BSF jawan was killed and 30 BSF personnel and civilians were injured during past fortnight. Pakistan had also suffered heavy damages. DIG BSF, Jammu sector J C Singla, DIG BSF Varinder Singh and DIG BSF Dharmendera Pareekh besides 7 Sector Commanders of their Units deployed from Kathua to Akhnoor sector on the IB and eight other senior officers represented BSF at the flag meeting. Pakistan Rangers were led by Sialkot Headquarters Brigadier Mateen and 14 other officers including Commanding Officers of their units deployed on the IB. Official sources told the Excelsior that BSF and Rangers have agreed to de-escalation of tensions by maintaining November 2003 ceasefire agreement in which no side would open firing on each other. “In case of firing by any side, a flag meeting would be convened immediately to sort out the matter,” they said. The flag meeting, which came after several hiccups as the Rangers hadn’t been turning up for such meetings earlier, decided that farming activity by the villagers of both India and Pakistan would be resumed right up to the Zero Line so that the farmers were able to cut their grown up crops. The BSF-Rangers meeting that lasted nearly three hours from 11.30 am to 2.20 pm at Octroi Post also initiated some other Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) like cutting of grown up 'sarkanda’ along the IB for clear vision of the border to ascertain as to who actually was firing. “There had been some occasion when the militants had also opened firing on the BSF posts with a view to infiltrate into this side,” sources said, adding a clear border would give more better picture to both the sides. The BSF and Rangers would start cutting wild growth of 'sarkanda’ from tomorrow to clear the border. In yet another significant decision, the BSF and Rangers decided to resume exchange of sweets on all major festivals, which had been suspended in the wake of escalated tensions on the borders. The BSF had refused to exchange sweets and fruits with Rangers on the occasion of Eid festival on October 16. The Army had also declined to share sweets with Pakistani troops on the Line of Control (LoC) at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch district and other places on Eid as a mark of protest against Pakistan firing. The Army had also not shared sweets with Pakistan counterparts on August 14 and 15, the Independence Days of the two countries as Pakistani troops had killed five Army soldiers on intervening night of August 4 and 5 in Sarla battalion area at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch district. Sources said the BSF also handed over a protest note to the Rangers over their unprovoked firing on the civilians areas and BSF posts during the past fortnight leading the death of a BSF jawan and injuries to 30 others including security personnel and civilians. The note charged the Rangers with ceasefire violations. Pakistan, as usual, was in the denial mode and instead blamed the BSF for firing. Speaking to reporters after the meeting at Octroi Post, DIG BSF Jammu, J C Singla said the meeting was held in cordial atmosphere and hopefully, the firing would now cease on the International Border. “We have lodged a protest with them (over ceasefire violations, shelling in civilian areas and snipping incidents)”, Mr Singla said. “Now the farmers can harvest their paddy crops till the border line without any fear as it was decided to observe calm. The meeting passed in conducive atmosphere and there were some very good decisions taken in the meeting,” he added. Both sides will keep monitoring situation along the International Border and “we will ensure that peace prevails along the borderline,” Mr Singla said. The BSF-Rangers decision came as a big relief for the people living along forward areas of the International Border in Jammu sector as some of them had shifted to safer places while many others were unable to cut the grown up paddy crops and feared that they might be damaged if Pakistan didn’t stop shelling and firing immediately. The people from forward areas of Nanga, Jasso Chak and SM Pur in Ramgarh sector, Abdullian and Chandu Chak in RS Pura sector and village Sidhar in Garkhal sector of Akhnoor tehsil, who had migrated to Government buildings including schools, today completely returned to their houses after the BSF-Rangers flag meeting. They had partially started returning to houses during the day after five consecutive days of peace on the IB. Sources said at most of the places along the IB, the people took to their fields this afternoon right on the Zero Line after getting a report of the positive results of the flag meeting. Since October 14, Pakistan Rangers shelled border villages and outposts with mortars bombs and rocket shells, besides heavy firing from LMGs and automatic weapons along the IB in Jammu frontier. One jawan was killed in these incidents while 30 others, including 17 civilians, had suffered injuries. There have been repeated ceasefire violations from across the border and incidents of intense shelling, firing, snipping and BAT attacks on forward posts, besides infiltration had increased during past sometime. Since August this year, 9 jawans have lost their lives in these incidents whereas 46 others, including 25 civilians, suffered injuries. BSF troops had earlier tried to hold flag meeting on October 18 and 20 at two forward border outposts in Samba district, but Pakistan Rangers did not turn up for the same. BSF had again sent communication through hotline and received response from Pak Rangers, which raised white flags and communicated its approval for the flag meeting yesterday.