India, Bangladesh to redraw border
India and Bangladesh have agreed to redraw their 4,100km boundary. Straightening of the boundary would include ending the contentious issue of over 200 enclaves located in each other’s territory. High-level sources said the deal would be announced when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Dhaka immediately after the West Bengal elections. The visit in all likelihood could take place in June. The boundary deal would have been done earlier if it wasn’t for the fact that Congress ally in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, flatly refused to agree to any transfer of population that could affect voter sentiment in the state. At issue is the demarcation of 6.1 km of boundary, and a final settlement on the enclaves and areas under “adverse possession. The broad contours of the border agreement reflects India’s aversion to disturbing settled populations and exchange of territory. This essentially means Bangladeshi enclaves in Indian territory will remain with India, while Indian enclaves in Bangladesh will remain with them. This might mean a little bit of area transfer mainly from India to Bangladesh. The people would be given a choice to decide, if they want to be Bangladeshi citizens or Indians, sources indicated. “We are working out the modalities, but that is the broad guideline,” a senior official said about the contentious citizenship issue. Enclaves are small areas that are in the middle of another country. The straightening of the boundary would make for easier policing, and if necessary, possible fencing of the border. Many parts of the Indo-Bangla border is already fenced. A headcount is currently underway in the enclaves on both sides — 130 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 95 Bangladeshi enclaves within Indian territory. A senior official said they believe “over two lakh people live in these enclaves but only the (ongoing) headcount will tell us the final figure”. India and Bangladesh held their first boundary talks in November, when Bangladeshi foreign minister Dipu Moni visited Tripura. The two sides expect to meet a few more times before the agreement is sealed. By straightening out the 4,100-km boundary, India may end up losing some land because it has more enclaves on the other side that would be absorbed by Bangladesh. “That is not a major issue, given the fact that it would forever settle the issue that has been on for centuries,” the official said. The 130 Indian Chitmahals (enclaves) occupy a land of some 20,000 acres while the Bangladesh Chitmahals in India occupy about 12,000 acres. In effect, India would end up losing some 8,000 acres.