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Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Analysis: Surprising outbreak of hostilities
Injured Bangladeshi soldier being carried to safety
Mounting casualties would increase the pressure
By South Asia analyst Kamal Ahmed

Politicians in both India and Bangladesh have stepped up their efforts to defuse the tension following the sudden outbreak of fighting between their border forces.

India has called for an early restoration of the status quo on the frontier, while Bangladeshi officials have said they are confident of an early resolution to the crisis.

There are conflicting details about why the longstanding border dispute between two friendly neighbours has so suddenly flared up.

Indian border guards
Indian forces were taken by surprise
It is clear that the trouble began when the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) - the Bangladeshi border force - retook Pyrdiwah village, in the Indian state of Meghalaya.

The BDR chief said that Pyrdiwah had been illegally occupied by India since Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971.

Questions are now being asked as to what prompted Bangladesh to take on the Indian Border Security Force when it had waited 30 years to resolve the dispute.

Elections

This is particularly surprising, given that the Bangladesh Government of Sheikh Hasina has only two months in office before the general election.

Some observers say that Prime Minister Hasina, who has been criticised by the opposition in Bangladesh as being pro-Indian, may have used the incident to shed that mantle.

Pyrdiwah
Both sides claim Pyrdiwah as their own
Others say that some elements in the army may have played a role in the attack, in the hope that an Indian counter-offensive would help stoke nationalist feelings among Bangladeshis, which in turn may help the opposition.

But many observers have ruled out such a possibility.

They say that in recent years discipline has been restored in the army and it is highly unlikely that they would act against the will of the current political leadership.

India cautious

The latest conflict has also posed new challenges for the Indian Government.

It is likely to face increasing pressure from security forces to counter Bangladesh's offensive because of the higher casualties suffered by Indian troops.

However the reactions in Delhi so far have been very cautious.

India values Bangladesh as an important ally in the region and is aware that full-scale retribution would seriously damage their relations.

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See also:

19 Apr 01 | South Asia
Fresh Bangladesh border clash
18 Apr 01 | South Asia
India-Bangladesh border battle
18 Apr 01 | South Asia
Tension along the border
23 May 00 | South Asia
Storm over cross border love
25 Aug 99 | South Asia
Border commanders declare truce
19 Jun 99 | South Asia
Bangladesh welcomes bus from India
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