2001 Bangladesh–India border clashes

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2001 Bangladesh–India clashes
India Bangladesh Locator.svg
Map showing the locations of India and Bangladesh (highlighted in green and orange, respectively)
Date16 – 20 April 2001 (4 days)

Return to the status quo ante bellum

 Bangladesh  India
Units involved
Bangladesh Rifles Border Security Force
1000+ (including civilians)[1][2][3][4] 16 [1][5][6]
Casualties and losses
3 killed[5] 16 killed[7][8][9][10][11]

The 2001 Bangladesh–India border clashes were a series of armed skirmishes between India and Bangladesh in April 2001. The clashes took place between troops of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) on the poorly-marked international border between the two countries.


The Partition of Bengal in 1947 left a poorly demarcated international border between the states of India and Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan). Ownership of several villages on both sides of the de facto border were disputed and claimed by both countries. The dispute over the demarcation of the India–Bangladesh border worsened due to the existence of over 190 enclaves.


One of the disputed areas was a small sliver of land near the village of Padua (also known as Pyrdiwah), on the border between Bangladesh and the Indian state of Meghalaya,[12] which was used by Indian security forces during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War to train ethnic Bengali guerrillas known as the Mukti Bahini, who were fighting the Pakistan Army and pro-Pakistan loyalist militias. Following its independence, Bangladesh staked its claim to the area in which India's Border Security Force (BSF) had established a post in since 1971.[4][12] The village is one of the Indian exclaves on the border between Bangladesh and Meghalaya.[13][14] There were 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladeshi-claimed territory and 50 Bangladeshi enclaves in Indian-claimed territory. Padua village is an adverse possession—a village inhabited by Indians that is legally owned by Bangladesh (until the border agreement is ratified and the populations exchanged).[2][15][16] The people of this village are ethnic Khasis.[4]

In an interview published much later, the then-director of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), Major-General Fazlur Rahman, who was later dismissed from service by the rival government following an election, claimed that the Indian BSF had begun to construct a linking road between their camp in Padua and another camp 10 km (6.2 mi) away through no man's land and Bangladeshi territory.[5][17]


The fighting that took place during these clashes was the worst since Bangladesh's war with Pakistan in 1971. It took place around the village of Padua in the Indian state of Meghalaya[12] which adjoins the Tamabil area of the Bangladeshi border in the Sylhet district. Although an effective status quo had been maintained in this area, around 6.5 km (4.0 mi) of the border had been disputed for the past 30 years.[12]

On 16 April 2001,[12] a force of around 1000 Bangladeshi soldiers[3] attacked and captured Padua village, breaking the status quo and forcing the civilians there to flee.[1][4] Bangladesh claimed that the village had been illegally occupied by India since Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971.[12][18][7] The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) post in Padua village was surrounded, trapping several BSF troops within. However, both sides held their fire and began negotiations. Over the course of the following days, about three BSF companies proceeded to reinforce the outpost.[2] This incident was resolved later without any bloodshed.

Following this standoff, BSF troops along the Indian–Bangladeshi border were put on high alert and ordered to begin intensive patrolling.[2] A few days later, a small contingent of BSF troops entered Bangladeshi territory near the village of Boroibari, more than 200 km (120 mi) to the west of Padua. Unlike the latter village, which is an adverse possession, Boroibari is an area lying across a fence well inside Bangladesh. The intrusion was used as a "counter-attack" by India to retaliate after the earlier incident in Padua.[1][2] According to Bangladeshi sources, Indian forces launched an early-morning attack on their posts in the frontier district of Kurigram, which lies on the border with the Indian state of Assam.[7]

Immediately upon entering Bangladeshi territory the 16 Indian paramilitary personnel were ambushed and killed by Bangladeshi soldiers, who were assisted by hundreds of villagers. Following their capture, the Indian soldiers were allegedly tortured by Bangladeshi security forces before being executed. General Gurbachan Jagat of the Indian BSF claimed that the returned bodies showed signs of serious mutilation, including strangulation, broken bones, as well as evidence of charring and scalding.[9][7][8][10][11] Around midnight, the Foreign Secretary of India, Chokila Iyer, received a call from her Bangladeshi counterpart, Syed Muazzem Ali, saying that orders had been issued to restore the status quo as well as for an immediate Bangladeshi withdrawal from Padua. The Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) withdrew from Padua by the night of 19 April.[2]

In the confrontation, 16 Indian border guards were killed while two suffered injuries.[7][8][9][10][11] The attack also left three Bangladeshi border guards dead and another five wounded. About 10,000 civilians fled the area after some 24 were wounded in the cross-border clashes.[16]

After the Boroibari intrusion on 18 April, India alleged that the BDR started firing 3-inch and 8-inch mortar shells on Mancachar village, which is another disputed Indian enclave.[1]


After both governments intervened in the situation, the Bangladeshis and Indians returned to their original positions and restored the previous status quo.[3] Fresh clashes erupted along the India–Bangladesh border just hours after both sides voiced regret and concern over the recent killings, but by midnight on 20 April, cross-border firing had stopped. An article reported that 6,000 Indian civilians had fled the region, and Indian government officials were attempting to convince the displaced villagers to return to their homes.[15] Bangladesh later agreed to return the bodies of 16 Indian soldiers the next day.[3] Upon examining the bodies of the dead personnel, India accused Bangladeshi forces of subjecting the captives to severe torture before they were shot dead.[19][20] On the other hand, three Bangladeshi soldiers were also killed; two during combat and another who died of wounds that were sustained during cross-border operations.

Observers have termed the incident as a political ploy to rouse nationalistic passions before the Bangladeshi elections (which were 2 months away at the time of the incident) and as malicious adventurism by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR).[2][12] The Government of Bangladesh denied allegations that it had supported the BDR's initialization of hostilities with India and termed the incident as the "adventurism of its local commanders".[3]


The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee engaged in telephonic discussions and subsequently agreed to order a high-level investigation into the incident.[5][11] Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raminder Jassal reported that both India and Bangladesh would improve bilateral diplomatic channels and promised to exercise restraint in the future.[15] India and Bangladesh initiated talks to resolve their border disputes in March 2002. By July 2002, the two sides established joint-working groups to agree on and establish the non-demarcated sections of the border.[14]

Bangladesh ordered no courts-martial, suspensions, or transfers of any local military commanders.[21] This was the first armed engagement between India and Bangladesh, two neighbouring states that had otherwise maintained friendly relations since Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971.[8] The end of the brief conflict saw an upsurge of nationalism in Bangladesh. In parliamentary elections, the four-party right-wing alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh won a majority of 196 seats out of 300.

Both sides desisted from any further hostilities and began border talks to discuss disputes along their 4,000 km (2,500 mi) border.[22] The two states experienced a thaw in their diplomatic relations shortly afterwards. India has since then initiated the construction of a barrier along the entire length of its international border with Bangladesh,[23] and is still in the process of constructing it.[24] Bangladesh has protested the construction of the barrier, claiming that the construction of a fence within 150 yards of the international border was a gross violation of the Indo-Bangladeshi Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace.[25] The Bangladeshi government also protested the alleged frequent Indian Border Security Force (BSF) incursions into Bangladesh, and cross-border firing that has resulted in the deaths of Bangladeshis inside Bangladeshi territory.[26] In a news conference in August 2008, it was stated that 97 people had been killed (69 Bangladeshis, 28 Indians; rest unidentified) while trying to cross the border illegally in the prior six months.[27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gokhale, Nitin (30 April 2001). "A Tale Of Two Blunders". Outlook. Archived from the original on 4 June 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Barbaric killing of BSF jawans puts India-Bangladesh relations under severe strain". India Today. 7 May 2001. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e "A Guns fall silent on border; BSF men's bodies to be returned today". The Tribune. 19 April 2001. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Chaudhuri, Kalyan (28 April 2001). "Disturbed Border". Frontline. Archived from the original on 28 August 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d "A brush with Bangladesh". 22 February 2014. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Experts against borderland handover sans reciprocity". Bangladesh-web.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e "India-Bangladesh border battle". BBC News. 18 April 2001. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d "India accuses Bangladesh of war crimes". CNN. 27 April 2001. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Harding, Luke (23 April 2001). "Army defiant as Bangladesh election looms". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  10. ^ a b c Choudhury, Dutta (10 December 2012). "Area where 16 BSF men were killed to go to Bangladesh". Assam Tribune. Archived from the original on 1 September 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d Nishanthi Priyangika (21 May 2012). "India-Bangladesh border still tense after worst clash in 30 years". World Socialist Web site. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "Analysis: Surprising outbreak of hostilities". BBC News.
  13. ^ Kobayashi-Hillary, Mark (2004). Outsourcing to India: The Offshore Advantage. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 61–. ISBN 978-3-540-20855-6.
  14. ^ a b The Europa World Year Book 2003. Taylor & Francis. 2003. pp. 662–. ISBN 978-1-85743-227-5.
  15. ^ a b c "South Asia Nuclear Dialogue". nautilus.org. Archived from the original on 3 December 2008.
  16. ^ a b van Schendel, Willem (2007). "The Wagah Syndrome: Territorial Roots of Contemporary violence in South Asia". In Basu, Amrita; Roy, Srirupa (eds.). Violence and Democracy in India. Calcutta: Seagull Books. pp. 55–57.
  17. ^ "A country should have strength to implement its political plans". New Age. 20 December 2013. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  18. ^ "Tension along the border". BBC News.
  19. ^ "'Criminal adventurism' must not go unpunished: Jaswant". Rediff.com. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  20. ^ "BSF men tortured, then shot dead". The Tribune. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  21. ^ "'Bangladesh used us as a punching bag". Mea.gov.in. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  22. ^ "Bangladesh and India begin border talks". BBC News.
  23. ^ "Livelihoods on line at Indian border". BBC News.
  24. ^ Nelson, Dean (13 November 2005). "India fences off Bangladesh to keep out Muslim terror". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 20 February 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  25. ^ "3 killed in Bangladesh-Indian border guards cross fire". People's Daily. 17 April 2005.
  26. ^ "Border tension flares as BSF kills 2 more". The Daily Star. 24 April 2005. Retrieved 19 April 2007.
  27. ^ "India says 59 killed over last six months on Bangladesh border". Reuters. 24 August 2008.
  28. ^ "Three Bangladeshis killed in 'drunk shooting' by BSF man". The Daily Star. 17 November 2008. Archived from the original on 12 February 2009.

Further reading[edit]