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Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Tension along the border
Injured Bangladesh soldier is airlifted to safety
There are conflicting claims on the number of casualties
By South Asia analyst Kamal Ahmed

The cycle of fighting started on Monday on the border between the Bangladeshi district of Sylhet and the Indian town of Dauki in the state of Meghalaya.

India said that Bangladeshi border guards intruded into their territory and took control of a piece of land spanning about 200 acres in the Pyrdiwah village.

Bangladesh said they only regained control of an area that had been seized by India during Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971.

Bangladesh has accused India of trying to take control of other areas for use as a bargaining chip to pressure Bangladeshi forces to withdraw from Pyrdiwah.

War of words

The escalation of tension between Bangladeshi and Indian forces comes within two weeks of a top-level border conference held in Delhi.

Bangladesh soldiers
India says Bangladeshi troops intruded into their territory
During that meeting both sides expressed hope that their current institutional mechanism to maintain peace on the border would help improve bilateral relations.

However, Bangladeshi officials insisted that without demarcation of their unmarked borders, the risks for sudden flare-ups would continue to exist.

They said that the agreement signed in 1974 between the two countries, known as the Indira-Mujib Accord and which has yet to be approved by India's parliament, needed to be implemented.

Frequent flare-ups

However, India maintained that although the accord had not been passed in parliament, it was committed to maintaining good relations with its neighbours.

But Indian Hindu nationalist politicians favour stricter guarding of the country's borders to prevent what they describe as economic migration from Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi fisherman
Disputes such as the sharing of river waters have been resolved
Direct exchange of fire between the two forces are not rare and most of the flare-ups are either over land disputes or migration.

But the latest round appeared to be the worst in their history despite the fact that in recent years the two countries have enjoyed friendly relations.

Major disputes like the sharing of waters, co-operation on insurgencies and trade have been resolved since Bangladesh's Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996.

However, observers say the confrontations on the border ahead of elections in Bangladesh and in West Bengal and Assam may once again bring issues like migration and India's attitude to smaller neighbours into campaign debates.

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See also:

18 Apr 01 | South Asia
India-Bangladesh border battle
25 Aug 99 | South Asia
Border commanders declare truce
19 Jun 99 | South Asia
Bangladesh welcomes bus from India
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