Plan for checkposts at borders dropped

Plan for checkposts at borders dropped

New Delhi: The Mumbai terror attacks have forced India to abandon its plans to set up all border posts that would have facilitated the movement of goods and people to and from countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.

“What to do? Every integrated checkpost plan has been put on hold across our borders, be it in Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar or Pakistan as there is an increased threat perception," said Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce and power.

India had planned to set up 13 such posts before 2012 at a total cost of Rs635 crore: seven along the border with Bangladesh, four along that with Nepal, and one each along those with Pakistan and Myanmar.

The so-called integrated checkposts or checkpoints would have had facilities for cargo handling, immigration, customs clearance, warehousing, banking, housing, border security and parking. They would have also had hotels.

Nepal’s representative here said he wasn’t aware that the plan was being abandoned.

“This has not come to my knowledge. India has been very active for the integrated checkpost plans and even the World Bank has been supporting it. Putting it on hold will affect the growing trade between the two countries," said Durgesh Man Singh, Nepal’s envoy to India.

India had planned to build its checkpost on its border with Nepal at Raxaul in Bihar, which would have been linked to Birganj in Nepal. India is Nepal’s largest trading partner. Of the Rs6,078.70 crore in total exports by Nepal in 2007-08 (15 July-14 July), India accounted for 63.53%, or Rs3,862 crore. And of the Rs22,611.60 crore worth imports into Nepal, India accounted for 63.91%, or Rs14,452.40 crore.

Analysts, however, say that actual trade between the two countries could be at least twice the official trade because of rampant smuggling.

Experts say that Pakistan’s external security agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), has been active in Nepal and uses the Terai districts along the India-Nepal border to facilitate the arms trade and movement of operatives into India. They add that Bangladesh has terror camps set up by outfits such as the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, Jamaat-ul-Mujahidin, Purbo Banglar Communist Party, Bipplobi Communist Party and the Sarbahara Party.

“A majority of population in Nepal believes that India is an aggressor country. These sentiments have been made use of by ISI to move arms and operatives in India. They are also pushing fake Indian currency notes into India," an Indian intelligence official posted in Kathmandu had told Mint in September.

Myanmar, the experts said, has been used by separatist outfits, such as the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the Bodo Liberation Tigers to set up bases to launch terror strikes in the north-eastern part of India.

An expert said the move to not go ahead with the checkposts would backfire. “This is precisely where we lose out. I would like to actively engage with the neighbouring countries, therefore, I want a checkpoint at our border. It was a very good proposal," said Bhashyam Kasturi, a New Delhi-based strategic affairs analyst.