India to seal border by 2018, allows evacuated residents to return

409 desk, October 8: India said on Friday it would completely seal the border with Pakistan by December 2018 and, in a sign that the military escalation could be abating, allowed evacuated local residents in Punjab to return home.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Jaisalmer that all effective means, including technological solutions, would be used to seal off the border.

Speaking to media after reviewing the security situation on border with ministers and officials of four states, Mr Singh proposed setting up a border security grid for which suggestions have been invited from all the stakeholders concerned, including the states which share border with Pakistan.

“It is a new concept. We will be framing guidelines after getting suggestions from all stakeholders,” Mr Singh said.

He said under the action plan of sealing the border, technology would also be used. “Like we have riverine and Sir Creek area in Gujarat, there we will make maximum use of technology for effective sealing of border.”

Mr Singh chaired the meeting of officials of states along the border. The government also decided to stop evacuation of people from villages in six districts of Punjab within 10km of the border with Pakistan.

Punjab Chief Minister’s Adviser on National Affairs Harcharan Bains said Mr Singh conveyed the decision to Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal at a meeting of the border states at Jaisalmer.

“The Punjab government has deci­ded to allow the people to return homes in the border areas. People who had to leave their homes following the earlier directive of centre government can now return to their homes,” he said.

In the wake of disputed surgical strikes by Indian army commandos inside Azad Kashmir, New Delhi had ordered evacuation of people from areas within 10km of the India –Pakistan border.

The state government has directed deputy commissioners of all districts concerned to take immediate steps to ensure smooth return of the affected people back to the border villages. The Centre had on Sept 29 asked the state to evacuate people residing in border villages, which included Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Taran Tarn, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Congress has welcomed the reversal of evacuation orders, saying it vindicated the party’s stand that it was not required in the first place.

“Evacuations had been ordered to create war hysteria for vested political interests by the Akali-BJP alliance. Since the decision boomeranged on them, eventually they had to withdraw this,” said Capt Amarinder Singh, president of Punjab Congress.