Bangladesh Suspends Mobile Networks Along Borders With India
A sun sets behind a barbed-wire fence. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)  

Bangladesh Suspends Mobile Networks Along Borders With India

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The Bangladesh government has suspended mobile networks along the borders with India, citing security reasons "in the current circumstances".

The move will affect around 10 million users in the area, according to media reports.

Telecom operators suspended mobile networks on Monday within one kilometre of the borders with India, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, in its order to operators Grameenphone, Teletalk, Robi and Banglalink on Sunday, said network coverage in the border areas should be suspended until further notice for the sake of the country's security in the current circumstances, it said.

A high-level meeting of the government took this decision, following which the instructions were issued, BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque was quoted as saying by bdnews24, declining to give further explanations.

A BTRC official was quoted as saying in the Dhaka Tribune that around 2,000 base transceiver stations have been closed that would affect around 10 million users in 32 districts that share border with India and Myanmar.

According to the report, Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen expressed ignorance over government's decision. “I do not have any such information. Let me know about it first and then I will comment,” Kamal said.

Brigadier General (retired) SM Farhad, secretary general at the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said mobile network operators in Bangladesh are compliant with government regulations. Accordingly, the directive on border network coverage has already been implemented.

This decision will certainly have an impact since a large segment of citizens in the border areas will be out of the range of the internet, voice and other services.

The Bangladesh government's directive came days after the Indian government passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. According to the law, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till Dec. 31, 2014, following religious persecution in those countries will get Indian citizenship.

Reacting to protests erupting in India over the Citizenship Amendment Act, Foreign Minister Momen on Dec. 22 voiced concern that any "uncertainty" in India is likely to affect its neighbours. He said that Bangladesh has requested New Delhi to provide a list of Bangladeshi nationals living illegally in India, "if any", to be repatriated.

He had also cancelled his visit to India beginning Dec. 12, hours before he was to arrive in New Delhi.

However, diplomatic sources in New Delhi had said that Momen and Home Minister Khan cancelled their visits to India over the situation arising out of the passage of the controversial Citizenship Bill in Parliament.

Bangladesh was learnt to have been upset following rollout of the National Register of Citizens in Assam around four months ago even though India conveyed to it that the issue was an internal matter of the country.

The NRC has been prepared to identify genuine Indian citizens living in Assam since March 24, 1971, or before, and identify illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the state. Out of 3.3 crore applicants, over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final NRC published on Aug. 30.

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