Talk on Open Border in International Conference
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
International Federation of Surveyors 25th World Congress, International Border Management Session was held on the third week of June in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Two thousand one hundred participants from 97 countries of the world participated the world congress. There were eleven participants from Nepal. This scribe presented a paper from Nepal entitled ‘Case Study on Nepal-India Border Management, its Opportunities and Challenges.’
During the presentation I mentioned, unwanted elements have made undesirable activities through Nepal-India open border. So there should adopt some alternative measures to stop illegal activities along the border.
In connection to my presentation, I explained the opportunities of the open border as convenience in movement across the international border without any hassle. There have been facilities of quick response during hazard and natural calamities. For example, there was a great fire hazard in Ilam of Nepal on June 6, 2011. Fire Brigade brought instantly from Darjeeling, India and put off the fire. Regarding cross-border medical services facility, thousands of Indian frontier inhabitants could come to Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital, Lahan Nepal any time to get the treatment without any obstruction. Indian labours from Arariya come to Nepal for paddy cultivation and harvesting without any restriction. There is a facility to supply food grains immediately, where there are shortage on the other side of the border. Local production like vegetables and fruits of one frontier could be sold in the weekly market of the other side there and then. All these have been possible as there is an open border regime between two countries.
Challenges of the open border regime is regarded as the other face of the same coin. I explained with examples that Abdul Karim Tunda, one of India’s most wanted top twenty Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists was arrested on August 16, 2013 and Yasin Bhatkal, co-founder of the Indian Mujahideen, a militant group banned in India, listed by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization and one of India’s most wanted terrorism suspect was arrested by Nepal police near India’s border on August 28, 2013; and they were handed over to India unofficially.
Indian criminal Bablu Dubey, who did 36 crimes in India sneaked Nepal through open border, was arrested by Nepal Police on May 29, 2013. Aasin Miya was arrested with Rs. 6.9 million Indian fake currency notes on May 28, 2012 in Bara district border. Similarly, Nepal Police arrested Amit Sarraf of Raxaul, an Indian national, with smuggled gold in Parwanipur from Indian border bound bus on May 19, 2014.
There have been trafficking of narcotic drugs, smuggling of goods and machinery, illegal transaction of small arms and gun-powder, trans-border theft, robbery and rape through the open border.
On the other hand, Nepali industrialist Ganga Bishan Rathi was abducted from Biratnagar, Nepal and he was taken to Siliguri, India and was killed on January 10, 2013 after 23 days of his abduction. Nepali businessman Tulsi Ram Agrawal was abducted on July 20, 2006 and taken to the other side of the border. He was released from Betia, India after the monetary negotiation. Maiti Nepal, a social organization, rescued 264 girls and women (15-28 years old) during 2013 in the Belahia-Sunauli border crossing point. They were supposed to be sold in Indian brothels.
There are infiltrations of third country nationals in a disguised manner through the open border. Bangladeshi citizens use to cross Nepal-India porous border illegally in the disguise of Indian (West Bengal) national. Their face, language, attire, food habit are as ditto as West Bengal inhabitants. Such is the case from Pakistani, Afghani, Iranian citizens as they cross open border as Indian (Uttar Pradesh) nationals. Similarly, Bhutanese and Mynmarian citizens cross the border illegally in the disguise of Nepali nationals. If we stay and look for one or two hours in the Thamel street market of Kathmandu, we can identify such non-status third country citizens. These are some of the examples of the challenges of the open border between two countries.
So far as the reactions on open border system is concerned, newly elected Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said on May 27, 2014 while meeting the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala informally after the swearing in ceremony in New Delhi that ‘Nepal and India should be mindful of mutual security concerns as they share an open border.’ Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said during Chief Ministers conference in New Delhi on April 21, 2012 that Open border with Nepal poses security challenges to Bihar. It needs center’s support to regulate the border to check cross-border crimes.
Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjeet Rae said on February 17, 2014 in an exclusive interview to the Kathmandu Post Daily ‘India and Nepal are very close friends and neighbours that share an open border. This has been so traditionally for centuries. In any close relationship, especially between neighbours with open borders, there will be irritants from time to time. But it will be resolved through dialogue, co-operation and understanding. We have an open border, someone commits a crime in one country and runs to the other. This is a problem for both countries. We have to set up our co-operation and co-ordination to ensure that the benefits are maximized and the problems are minimized. We need to have regulation and more patrolling along the border. But sometimes, unfortunately, they are also misused by people who do not have the best interests of the two countries at heart. Terrorism-related cases, fake Indian currency smuggling, gold smuggling and trafficking of protected species are at he specific areas of concern India has with Nepal.’
During presentation, I expressed recommendation that alternative measure should be implemented in order to maintain internal and external security system, to address the challenges of open border and to make Indo-Nepal border safe and secure. In the first phase, a mechanism should be developed to monitor by the CCTV cameras. CCTV should be installed in a long but narrow corridor, and the travellers should walk through that room speaking his/her name with caste, address, purpose of crossing the border and number of days he is travelling. It has to visualise and study his face, posture, dialect, way of walking, sequence of speaking on the computer monitor from inside the corridor. Doubtful traveller should be interrogated taking him to nearby small room. If he is found suspicious, it must be arrested for further inquiry. If he is a genuine passenger, he should be allowed to cross the border without any delay.
As the second alternative, it is imperative to implement ID card system in a phase wise basis in some of the border crossing points. Introducing ID system is pragmatic for Nepal and India in course of time for the security reason. Travellers should produce ID card while crossing the international border, that should be scanned and let the passenger go through immediately. If this system was introduced, it could have been easily identified the total number of Nepali pilgrimage died last year due to land slide hazard in India. It is commendable that ID card system was introduced for the air-route passengers since October 1, 2000, after the hijacking of Indian Airline aircraft from Kathmandu to Kandahar, Afghanistan. ID was implemented with the decision of both the countries.
The last alternative measure I suggested in my presentation was- fencing the frontier. I quoted the saying of an eminent American poet Robert Frost ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ Ultimately, it will be not too bad to erect barbed wire fencing between two good neighbours. There are one thousand eight hundred and eighty km long border line between Nepal and India. So there must have 360 exit /entry points, so that the inhabitants of both the frontiers can reach to the exit point, travelling one to two kilometer distance. But visa system should not be introduced because of the perspective of age old friendship between the government to government and people to people level relationship.
After my presentation, participants from United Arab Republic, Israel, Bangladesh, Malaysia and others put questions: whether India may agree to introduce ID card system, if there is existence of extradition treaty between Nepal and India, since how long the open border system existed, whether international terrorists travel across India-Nepal border or also Tibet-Nepal border, and how much will be the cost estimate of fencing on the border.
I answered that Nepal-India border is open for centuries, but there is no black and white agreement. However it is going on traditionally and culturally. India may be mindful to make the border regulated in the context of the security of the people and cross-border crime and smuggling of fake Indian currency notes. For this, India has deployed more than forty-five thousand Special Security Bureau (SSB) personnel along the border. Regarding extradition treaty, it has been drafted and discussed, but it is entangled on the issue whether third country criminals should be extraditated. Terrorists shuttle mostly India-Nepal-India open border, and very few from China-Nepal border. Regarding the cost of the fencing, I mentioned my book entitled ‘Border Management of Nepal’ published eleven years ago, as it was estimated as 140 million US$. But the cost may be more than four fold in these days due to market inflation.
At the end of my presentation I reiterated that for the security reason, Nepal-India international border must be restricted to the terrorists, controlled for smugglers, checked for criminals, obstructed for girl traffickers, stopped for narcotic holders, vigilant for smuggler of fake Indian currency notes. But there must not be any delayed for genuine passengers to cross the international border.
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