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India, Bangladesh sign boundary deal

By   /   June 7, 2015  /   No Comments

June 7, 2015

Bangladesh and India yesterday sealed a historic land pact to swap territories, which will finally allow tens of thousands of people living in border enclaves to choose their nationality after decades of stateless limbo.

Bangladesh and India yesterday sealed a historic land pact to swap territories, which will finally allow tens of thousands of people living in border enclaves to choose their nationality after decades of stateless limbo.

Foreign secretaries of the two nations signed a protocol and exchanged instruments of ratification to make operational the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) in the presence of visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina.

The two leaders watched as officials signed a raft of agreements and India announced a “two billion dollar line of credit” to Bangladesh.

Modi’s first trip to Dhaka since his election win last year has been dominated by the deal to fix the contours of a border that stretches 4,000 kilometers along India’s eastern flank.

While Delhi’s relations with China and Pakistan continue to be dogged by border disputes, the LBA’s ratification removes a thorn that has troubled relations between the two countries since Bangladesh’s 1971 war of secession from Pakistan.

India’s intervention on behalf of the independence fighters proved decisive in that conflict and successive Bangladeshi governments have enjoyed close ties with their giant neighbor.

But an agreement on the ownership of 162 enclaves — essentially islands of land resulting from ownership arrangements made centuries ago by local princes — had proved elusive in the decades since.

Bangladesh endorsed the deal in 1974 but it was only in May that India gave its approval, teeing up yesterday’s ratification ceremony between Modi and his counterpart Sheikh Hasina.

Under the deal, the countries will exchange territories, with 111 enclaves being transferred to Bangladesh and 51 to India.

People living in the enclaves will be allowed to choose to live in India or Bangladesh, with the option of being granted citizenship in the new territories, and the enclaves will effectively cease to exist.

About 50,000 people who are thought to live in the landlocked islands lack many basic services such as schools, clinics or utility services because they are cut off from their national governments.

Modi compared the deal to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

“We’ve resolved a question that has lingered since independence. Our two nations have a settled boundary. It will make our borders more secure and people’s lives more stable,” he said after the deal was signed.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister was similarly effusive, terming Modi’s visit a “historic moment.”

She said she was “extremely happy that with this land pact,” adding that a “68-year old humanitarian issue comes to a peaceful end.”

The two leaders also inaugurated bus services connecting the Bangladeshi capital with four eastern India cities, and Dhaka declared a special economic zone near a southern port exclusively for Indian investors.

Just an hour after Modi’s arrival in Dhaka, two of India’s biggest conglomerates — Reliance Power and Adani — signed outline agreements with Bangladesh’s state-run electricity agency to invest about US$5 billion in the country’s rickety power sector.

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