Prime Minister Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina have formalized a historic agreement on June 6 enabling the two countries to exchange the land enclaves in each other’s territory during Modi’s two-day visit to Bangladesh.
The long awaited Land Border Agreement (LBA) would now allow thousands residing in the enclaves along the India-Bangladesh border to choose their nationality. The move would likely boost the ties between both the nations paving way for better diplomatic relations. Parliament, a few weeks ago, unanimously approved a Constitution Amendment Bill backing the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974 with Bangladesh and the related 2011 Protocol finally leading to the joint ratification ceremony on June 6. The India-Bangla disputes can be traced back to history as early as 1713. The conflicts between the King of Koch Bihar and the Mughal Empire remained unresolved with the territories not defined a boundary even after the war between them. The territories came under the then British rule and later evolved as one of the major topics of contention between India and the countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh after the partition.
The people, who were stuck in the neighbouring countries after the partition unable to return to their home land, could now have a new address with the option of being granted citizenship in the newly designated territories. Prime Minister Modi had assured that the border disputes existing between India and Bangladesh since their independence was on the way of being resolved. Due to historical reasons, there had been 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside the Indian mainland. Around 51, 549 people who live in these enclaves beyond the borders of India and Bangladesh are deprived of basic facilities like schools, hospitals and utility services because they are cut off from their national governments. They would now be allowed to choose to live in either India or Bangladesh and the enclaves would effectively cease to exist. The 4, 096 km long international border shared by Bangladesh and India is the fifth longest land border in the world. The two countries have made attempts to resolve the border disputes after they attained independence in 1947. But the efforts had gone in vain. The Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) was signed by the founding father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, on May 16, 1974. Bangladesh’s Jatiya Sangsad ratified the deal immediately after it was signed. But it was only last month that the Indian Parliament gave its approval.
The maritime boundary disputes between India and Bangladesh was also resolved following a verdict by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in July signaling a double victory for India. Both the countries welcomed the decision of the court which awarded about eighty percent of the disputed water resources to Bangladesh. India’s willingness to resolve the issue through legal means and acceptance of the verdict is appreciable and would further boost the ties and goodwill between the two countries. The latest development between the two countries is likely to boost the relations with the other two neighbouring countries as well. In Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, disputes still exist in the border areas with China. The differences over the McMahon line, the boundary between India and China, are as old as the India-Bangladesh dispute. India though the latest agreement have opened new doors for it's neighbour by initiating the resolution of the matter through peaceful negotiations. The Prime Minister who is likely to pay a visit to China is expected to take steps in this regard. The settlement through negotiations based on mutual trust between India and Bangladesh could also serve as a lesson for solving the India-Pak conflicts for Jammu and Kashmir. Any move in this direction without a third party intervention, would certainly get the support of the people of both the countries. The goodwill and the warm diplomatic ties with Bangladesh if extended to China and Pakistan and evoke a favourable response, the move by the PM would surely be a historic one.