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Dhaka mutiny: India puts guards on alert

IANS
Feb 25, 2009 at 11:15pm IST

New Delhi: India on Wednesday put its frontier guards on maximum alert along the Bangladesh border following a border guards mutiny in the neighbouring country and is watching closely developments there that could have impact on its border security.

India, however, said that the border guards mutiny in Bangladesh was an "internal affair of that country" and underlined that Indian frontiers were safe and secure.

"It is their internal affair," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Wednesday.

DHAKA MUTINY: India said that the border guards mutiny in Bangladesh was an "internal affair".

"It's not our practice to make comments on internal affairs of any country, especially a neighbouring county. India's borders are safe and secure," Mukherjee said.

"It's their problem and they are dealing with it," he added.

The mutiny at the sprawling 200-acre Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) headquarters complex left at least four people dead and scores injured in the heart of Dhaka.

The Indian high commission in Dhaka is also closely following the incident but is awaiting details before making an assessment of any security implications for the country, sources in the Indian mission in Dhaka said.

Indian officials familiar with internal dynamics of Bangladesh said it looked like an incident fuelled by long-festering grievances among paramilitary forces in that country.

New Delhi is also being cautious as the incident comes at a time when it is beginning a new chapter in its relations with the new Hasina Wajed government in Dhaka that is positively inclined towards improving relations with India.

The new regime in Dhaka has also assured New Delhi that it will take action against anti-India insurgents who have set up their base in that country.

India responded to the incident by putting its frontier guards on maximum alert along the Bangladesh border. An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) official said troopers were put on high alert and additional reinforcements rushed to sensitive border areas along the northeastern states of Tripura and Assam.

"A high alert was sounded with senior officials asked to station themselves in the border outposts," A.K. Singh, a BSF spokesperson said.

Another senior BSF official said Bangladesh army soldiers have taken over several border outposts in Feni district, bordering Tripura, after a mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) troopers.

"We are monitoring the developments and as of now nothing unusual has been noticed along the border. We are ready to meet any eventuality in the event of a spill over of the happenings in Bangladesh," the BSF official said requesting not to be named.

India's former envoy to Bangladesh Veena Sikri suggested that New Delhi needs to carefully watch the situation that have implications along the India-Bangladesh border.

"How this mutiny pans out could not only have repercussions for internal stability but also how civilian-military relations will be impacted," said Sikri, a former high commissioner to Dhaka.

"What is equally important is how it will affect patrolling along the 4,000-km long border with India. Will the army replace the BDR? These are questions which must be worrying the security establishment," Sikri said.

"Also interesting is how nobody within the establishment knew of this planned mutiny."

After several hours of fierce battles with the army, the rebellious BDR troopers agreed to lay down arms following talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"I think Sheikh Hasina has handled the situation impressively with a hands-on approach and is willing to listen to their grievances," Sikri said.

"It is a very serious situation and needs to be watched carefully. For India, the uppermost worry will be what next on border patrolling. According to an inter-governmental agreement it was decided that only paramilitaries will man the border," she pointed out.

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