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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh map change in the offing

Update : 23 Apr 2013, 02:53 AM

The Indian government is set to introduce a bill in the Rajya Shaba, upper house of the parliament, today to amend its constitution and resolve land border disputes with Bangladesh.  The amendment will pave the way to ratify and implement the Land Boundary Agreement 1974 and its additional protocol signed in 2011 between Dhaka and New Delhi.

The implementation will resolve disputes related to 162 enclaves in Kurigram, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat and Kochbihar; 22 patches of adversely possessed land on the Bangladesh-India border and 6.5km of un-demarcated border in Matamuhuri, Doikhata and Lathithuli. 

Bangladeshi officials in Dhaka and diplomats stationed in Delhi said that the map of Bangladesh will change once the agreement and the protocol are implemented.

The Indian parliament’s website said that their External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will pilot “The Constitution (One Hundred and Nineteenth Amendment) Bill, 2013”, which will allow India to acquire territories and provide Bangladesh with certain areas in accordance with the 1974 agreement and the 2011 protocol.

Official border

“The biggest achievement of the Land Boundary Agreement’s implementation would be that both the countries would have an official border,” Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tariq A Karim told the Dhaka Tribune over phone yesterday. 

“What we have now is a de-facto border, which is constantly being challenged by both sides. After implementation [of the agreement and protocol], there will be no dispute.”

The envoy added that once the bill is passed, a mutually recognised legal boundary will be established ending the pending confusion over territory and jurisdiction.

Tariq also expressed hopes that the amendment proposal would be passed in the current budget session. “I have talked with all the political parties here and am hopeful the bill will be passed. I have good ties with all sides and there is a consensus among the parties here to maintain good relations with Bangladesh.”

An official of Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, requesting anonymity, said that the disputed border pillars would be removed, and set up again, to properly demarcate the mutually agreed border once the bill is passed and the agreement and protocol are ratified.

Out of over 1,100 strip maps, 22 were still pending being signed off on, due to disputes. These will also be signed after the ratification, the official added.

Dhaka had ratified the 1974 agreement just after it was signed by the then prime minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi. Bangladesh also issued a gazette notification in the same year. However, India is yet to ratify the deal.

In 2011, both the governments decided to add a protocol to give the agreement a complete shape. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and her counterpart SM Krishna signed the document in Dhaka during the visit of the Indian PM Manmohan Singh in September of that year.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, in February this year, at a programme said that the LBA would be ratified in the budget session at the Indian parliament.

Exchange of enclaves

There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory with 34,000 residents while 51 Bangladeshi enclaves with 17,000 people are inside India. The fate of those will be settled once the agreement and protocol are implemented, Tariq Karim said.

The residents of the enclaves will be given the option to change their citizenship status to either one of the two countries, or retain their existing citizenship, he added. 

The people in those enclaves cannot not enjoy any state facility including health and education as they reside inside another country.

Exchange of Adversely Possessed Land

“The Bangladesh map will be changed in 22 patches of adversely possessed land (APL) and three un-demarcated border areas,” another foreign ministry official said.

Bangladesh and India has a vast porous border of 4,076 kilometres where 6.5km border is un-demarcated in three places.

In those patches, total land size is about 5,500 acres, and after the adjustment, Bangladesh would get about 2,300 acres of land while India would get over 3,400 acres, the source said.

Un-demarcated border

Bangladesh and India has 6.5km of un-demarcated border in three areas with total land size of about 150 acres, the official said.

Bangladesh will receive a total of 140 acres in border areas. Namely, 35 acres in Matamuhuri, 70 in Doikhata and 35 in Lathithuli, he added.

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