New Delhi: In a major boost to India's efforts in tackling terror activities from across the border, the Nepalese national paramilitary force has assured cooperation in checking doubtful "third country" operatives on its soil.
The "landmark" decision was inked during the fourth India-Nepal coordination meeting held between Indian border guarding force SSB and its Nepalese counterpart APF at Pokhara, Nepal during November 20-22.
The Indian side was led by SSB Director General (DG) Kumar Rajesh Chandra and the Armed Police Force (APF) of Nepal team was headed by its Inspector General Shailendra Khanal.
These talks are annually held between the two national border guarding forces to thrash out issues of mutual concern like smuggling of arms, fake currency, narcotics, other criminal activities and those related to anti-national elements and terrorists.
"This is for the first time that the joint record of discussions signed between the two sides had a special mention of 'third country' operatives.
Nepal has extended its cooperation and agreed to help the Indian security agencies in acting against nationals of any third country, apart from those belonging to the respective countries, that use the Nepalese soil against India."
"This is a landmark development," a senior official told PTI on condition of anonymity. The Indian side has also assured similar cooperation, he said.
The 1,751-km long open India-Nepal border has been reported multiple times in the past to have been used by Pakistani elements and terrorists to perpetrate nefarious activities and a number of such operatives have been nabbed by Indian security agencies.
The latest such official declaration was made in 2017 when the SSB had said that 34-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Naseer Ahmed, was arrested by its troops from the Sonauli border post in Uttar Pradesh's Maharajganj district.
The emergence of Chinese study centres, which teach subjects of Chinese culture, traditions, teachings and economy in Nepal, is also a cause of concern for the Indian agencies. Some of these centres are stated to be based in Jhapa and Ilam districts, which have strong trade, economic and ethnic ties with India.
The latest decision is a major boost for the Indian security agencies to better coordinate with Nepal and intercept and extract terrorists and other nefarious elements who may misuse the fence-less Indo-Nepal border to commit illegal activities, the official said.
"Not only terrorist elements from Pakistan and other countries, but smuggling kingpins and fake Indian currency notes (FICN) mafia can also be better better checked. The move is also seen as a major confidence building measure between the two forces," he said.
Both the forces, during a similar meeting held in Delhi last year, had decided to share "real-time" intelligence inputs among themselves and to ensure ground-level contact between their border commanders up to the level of the respective chiefs and with this decision the security coordination will go a notch higher, the official said.
The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is also designated as the lead intelligence gathering agency on this border and it coordinates its activities with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the external snoop agency of the country - Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) of various agencies under the Union Home Ministry.
The three-day meeting in Nepal also saw discussions being firmed up on issues related to various other cross-border crimes, joint patrol at no man's land, upkeep of border pillars and holding of joint training exercises in the future.
No discussion was held on the disputed border area of Kalapani-Susta where both the frontier guarding forces have their troops deployed, the official said. The next such meeting between the two forces is expected to be held in Delhi next year.