Bangladesh's telecom regulator has ordered a suspension of mobile networks along the borders with India, citing security reasons "in the current circumstances", a move that will affect around 10 million users in the area. Bangladeshi media reported that networks were snapped on Monday within one kilometre of the borders with India.
In its order to telecom companies – Teletalk, Robi, Grameenphone and Banglalink – on Sunday, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) 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". "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 a local TV channel, declining to give further explanations.
A BTRC official was quoted as saying in a local newspaper that around 2,000 base transceiver stations have been closed that would affect around one crore users in 32 districts that share a border with India and Myanmar. However, senior ministers had declined to comment on the matter. A telecom lobby official had however confirmed that operators have snapped services as per government instructions.
Bangladesh's directive comes weeks after India passed the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA, inviting massive agitation against the law. The law seeks to fast track citizenship to non-Muslim religious minorities fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Reacting to the anti-CAA agitation, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on December 22 voiced concern that any "uncertainty" in India is likely to affect its neighbours. He had also abruptly cancelled his visit to India beginning December 12.
Bangladesh is learnt to have been upset following the rollout of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam earlier this year even though India conveyed to it that the issue was an internal matter of the country. The Indian government has also proposed a nationwide NRC to identify illegal immigrants. Concerns in Bangladesh have been surrounding any attempt of India to repatriate the immigrants to their home country, many who might land upon its soil.
(With PTI inputs)