BSF, Pak Rangers re-activate 16 phone lines for border peace

India and Pakistan have agreed to re-activate 16 telephone numbers along the border, which were put in place after the ceasefire in 2002 but never used, to discuss incidents along the border and prevent them from escalating. The decision was taken at the Director General-level talks between the Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers in Lahore last month.

This assumes significance in the wake of the ceasefire violations in October-November last year, in which several border personnel as well as civilians were killed on both sides.

After the 2002 ceasefire, it was decided that senior officers of the two forces would contact each other on phone to discuss any issue. The telephone lines were installed at various sectors, from Jammu border to Gujarat, and were to be handled by DIG-level officers. However, the numbers were never used, according to officials.

During the DG-level talks in Lahore, which coincided with the DGMOs' talks at Wagah border, the "hotline"-like numbers were activated. "We have already started talking on these numbers... Let's not call them hotline numbers but something similar. I can tell you that they existed but were never used. We can also send fax on these numbers," BSF DG Subhash Joshi told The Indian Express.

"The two sides also decided that they will not ignore a call for a flag meeting," he said.

The two forces have also decided to be lenient with women and children who inadvertently cross the border. "Based on the judgement of the local commander, people who mistakenly cross the border will be sent back immediately," said a senior BSF official.

Besides this, the two forces decided to hold sporting activities and visits of schoolchildren to build confidence. It was also decided that no new defence structures would come up in certain areas. "Starting this week, Pakistan will start clearing vegetation on their side as they hinder our vision," said the official.

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