A high-level delegation of Pakistani Rangers will arrive here tomorrow to hold the much- anticipated bilateral talks with their counterparts BSF on Thursday on key issues including ceasefire violations and cross-border infiltration. The talks between Indo-Pak border forces come after more than one-and-a-half-year. The last round was held in December 2013 in Lahore.
Despite it cancelling the NSA-level talks with India which made it clear that there should not be any meeting between Kashmiri separatists and Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz during his visit here, Islamabad had agreed to New Delhi’s proposal on a meeting between the two border guarding forces.
While the 15-member Pakistan delegation will be led by the senior Rangers Director General (Punjab) Maj Gen Umar Farooq Burki, the 23-member Indian side would be headed by BSF DG D K Pathak during the talks and expected to raise issues like ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir, including sniper attacks on BSF personnel and infiltration. “The talks will also endeavour to focus on positive issues like different levels of communication, more simultaneous coordinated patrolling and other confidence building measures,” a BSF statement said.
According to sources, extra stress would be on the “most important” issue of breach of ceasefire in J&K which has led to loss of lives of civilians and troops and “unprovoked” firing by the Rangers along the IB. The issue of “no response” by the other side when BSF waves the ‘white flag’ which is used to indicate stopping of fire and meeting of on-ground commanders of the two sides will also be taken up. The BSF will also take up the issue of intrusion in the ‘Harami Nallah’ area of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, smuggling of contraband from across the border and illegal movement of suspects up to the zero line area along the IB in order to facilitate illegal activities.
Pakistan had last month sent confirmation and agenda for these DG-level which included issues like the alleged use of objectionable language by troops on the Indian side and air space violations by suspected unmanned aerial vehicles. According to Pakistan High Commission sources, serious concerns on the infiltration from the Indian side in Punjab and Rajasthan and who were involved in sabotage activities there will be raised during the talks. The Pakistani delegation will also stress on the activation of the UNMOGIP (UN Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan), they said. However, India has always maintained that the UN group has lost its relevance and therefore, was redundant.
Pakistan has also listed alleged construction of defence infrastructure along the border, firing by taking aid of ‘Sarkanda’ (thick bushes), no response on Simultaneous Coordinated Patrolling (SCP) along this frontier, smuggling and apprehension and killing of civilians in their agenda for talks. The Rangers have also alleged that the Indian side has not been responding to their request of flag meetings when they desire and have claimed use of heavy ammunition by India during cross-border firing.
The delegation which will also have second Rangers DG (Sindh) Maj Gen Bilal Akbar is expected to cross over the Attari-Wagah land border in Punjab by 12 noon tomorrow and after a ceremonial reception by BSF commanders, they will leave from Amritsar airport on a special BSF plane for Delhi. The talks will begin on September 10 after a ceremonial guard of honour by the BSF at their headquarters here and a joint record of discussions will be signed on September 12 by the two DGs.
The ties between the two sides have been strained because of ceasefire violations along the International Border and the Line of Control and other issues. The two sides will also stress for the release of prisoners in the jails of the either countries. During the talks, the BSF is also expected to propose initiation of some sporting tournaments between the two sides on the lines of a similar arrangement with Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB).
“However, the proposal is subject to acceptance by the Rangers,” a senior official said.