Amid Ceasefire Violations, Rangers, BSF To Hold Talks For 5 Days

8 March 2015

New Delhi: A high-level delegation of border guarding Pakistan Rangers is set to arrive here later this month for talks with its Indian counterpart BSF after a long spell of strained ties between the neighbours over a spate of ceasefire violations. The Rangers delegation, led by its two Directors General (DGs), is expected to enter India through the land border at Wagah-Attari in Punjab on March 25 and will hold talks for five days with their Indian counterpart Border Security Force (BSF) at its headquarters here. In a rare instance, both the Chiefs of Pakistan Rangers - Maj Gen Bilal Akbar (DG Rangers Sindh) and Maj Gen Khan Tahir Javed Khan (DG Rangers Punjab) - will attend the talks. The visit has been pending for over a year now as BSF had sent the invite for DG-level talks early last year, but there had been no confirmation from the other side. The visit was not taking shape as frequent ceasefire violations for the past eight months kept tempers high between the two sides in general, and the Rangers and BSF in specific. 'The Pakistan Rangers are arriving in India for the annual DG-level talks for five days from March 25 to March 29. The last time the two sides met was in December 2013 when the BSF travelled to Lahore. Since then, the ties have been strained because of ceasefire violations along the International Border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and the visit kept on getting delayed,' a top Home Ministry official said. The BSF, the official said, is expected to take up the issue of ceasefire violations during this meeting even as it expects that their counterparts from across the border would be armed with similar dossiers. 'The two sides will want to talk and thrash out issues in a cordial manner. The Home Ministry and security establishment want to honour these talks as they are happening after a long hiatus. India will put across its statement of record of the last eight months when the border saw maximum tension due to repeated ceasefire violations,' the official said. The Indian side would be led by BSF Director General D K Pathak with officials drawn from border management division of the Home Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs, PWD officials of the Punjab Government, sleuths of the Narcotics Control Bureau and officials from the Survey of India among others. The Pakistani delegation will have a dozen of senior officials from its security establishment including those from the Interior Ministry. The Indian side would also tell Pakistan that ceasefire violations from the other side in Jammu and Kashmir took place 685 times during the last eight months resulting in death of 24 people, including eight security forces personnel. While 126 ceasefire violations took place along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border under operational control of Army, 559 violations took place along the IB under operational control of the Border Security Force. Under strict instruction from the Government, articulated time and again by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the BSF gave befitting reply to the Pakistani side every time there was a firing or ceasefire violation in the last few months along this frontier with the BSF putting it on record that it chose not to wave the military 'white' flag to persuade the other side to plug the barrels of their guns and sit for talks, but instead kept pounding the Rangers posts with its firepower. 'Issues related to making things cordial on the border, starting of ground talks, respecting the border protocols, operationalisation of hotlines and issues related to ensuring the sanctity of borders are expected to be discussed during the five-day talks after which a joint record of discussions will be signed between the two sides,' official sources said. Security protocols activated by the two sides in the aftermath of the deadly suicide bombing which killed several people near the joint retreat ceremony venue at Wagah-Attari in November last would also be discussed during the meeting. The Indian side would also raise its regular concerns of illegal crossing of Pakistani nationals into Indian territory and the return of inadvertent crossers, arrest of fishermen and confiscation of their fishing boats off the Gujarat coast in the Rann of Kutch and Sir Creek area, construction of unauthorised defence infrastructure along the International Border and smuggling of narcotics and fake currency notes. The Rangers delegation would be accorded the top most security and comfort, the sources said, and would be brought to Delhi on a special flight from Amritsar and will be secured by an elite commando unit of BSF during their stay here. Plans are afoot to take the delegation for a visit to some historical monuments or locations near the national capital. The bilateral talks will be held for a second time in Delhi after it was first organised here in 2012.