Kolkata, Sep 21 (IANS) Aimed at improving trade and cultural ties, the West Bengal government has approved setting up of four border "haats" on the India-Bangladesh border, a Border Security Force (BSF) officer said here Saturday.
"As a confidence building measure, we had identified and sought approval for setting up border haats at 32 locations. The West Bengal government has approved four of those haats," said BSF Additional Director General B.D. Sharma.
The border haat or a common marketplace, where local traders from both countries would be allowed to set up shops, would not only allow people from the respective countries to buy each other's products but also help in improving mutual relationship as well as trade and cultural ties, he said.
Buoyed by the success of twin such haats in Meghalaya, the BSF had approached the Bengal government with a similar proposal.
Describing the India-Bangladesh border as one of the most violent, he, however,said BSF's relations with the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) remains friendly.
"It was one of the most violent international borders accounting for more than 100 deaths annually till recently. However, after we agreed to use non0lethal weapons two years back, the death at the border has come down drastically," said Sharma addressing the media here after participating in the Sep 14-19 Director General-level talks (DGLT) with the BGB in Dhaka.
He also admitted that the use of non-lethal weapons like the pump action gun (PAG) over the lethal INSAS rifle since 2011, has lead to criminals getting emboldened and attacking BSF personnel which resulted in casualties as well as injuries.
"Till August this year, only 13 deaths have taken place which includes seven Bangladeshis. However, we have lost three of our personnel in attacks by Bangladeshi smugglers. No doubt the use of non-lethal weapons have brought down the deaths, but it also has resulted in criminals getting emboldened," said Sharma.
Highlighting the increased use of nonlethal weapons, Sharma said the BSF till August 2013 has made 688 PAG firings compared to 249 in 2011. While on the other hand, INSAS firing during the year came down to just 41 from a staggering 634 in 2009.
As part of confidence building measures, both the BSF and BGB have agreed to participate in their respective raising days, visit training and other facilities as well as undertake regular sports exchange programmes.