New Delhi: India and Bangladesh are gearing up to solve a protracted cross-border land conflict. Both nations are preparing for a land swap of enclaves or pieces of land which lie in each other's territories.
These enclaves are pieces of land that the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and Rangpur won or lost in gambling and have existed since 1947. But, soon after Bangladesh's liberation in 1971, a pact was drawn between New Delhi and Dhaka for exchange of these territories.
India has 111 enclaves or nearly 17,000 acres of land within Bangladesh.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, has 51 enclaves or 7,000 acres within India.
Since India has more land in Bangladesh than Bangladesh has in India, India is going to lose about 10,000 acres of land.
Hence, the Centre will have to approach the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to get clearance for the execution of the land treaty with Bangladesh.
The two nations will also undertake a headcount of residents in these enclaves, a first since 1971. Officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Registrar General of India will go the enclaves in Bangladesh for this exercise and representatives from Bangladesh will visit the enclaves in India. The residents of the enclaves on both sides of the border will then be given the option to decide which country they want to live in.
Currently, neither the police nor developmental agencies can enter these enclaves on either side of the border. As a result, these territories are grossly-underdeveloped, lacking in basic infrastructure and education facilities.
Hence, the land swap will be hugely beneficial for the people residing in these particular enclaves with access to better amenities, services and policing.
More importantly, the land swap is expected to de-escalate India's border conflict with Bangladesh and help improve overall ties between the two neighbours.
The Home Minister is expected to visit Bangladesh soon to formalise the land swap.