India, Bangladesh to finalise border agreement


New Delhi: India and Bangladesh are expected to finalise on Saturday an agreement that will allow them to swap small pockets of land in each others’ territory and end the decades-old boundary dispute between the two neigbours.

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The agreement would be finlised during the visit of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who left for Dhaka Friday, a home ministry spokesperson said.

“Security and border management-related issues between the two countries will be discussed during the visit. It is expected that the India-Bangladesh border management plan will be finalised during the visit,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

India and Bangladesh share some 4,100 km border, of which some six kilometres have not been demarcated as yet.

The relationship between the two neighbours has always been fraught with tensions over the troubled border that acts a gateway to illegal migrants into India.

However, more difficult issue is the one related to small pockets of land in each others’ territory along the northern edge of Bangladesh’s border with India.

These islands of land also called enclaves – surrounded completely by the other country’s land – are 162 in number, clustered on either side of Bangladesh’s border with the district of Cooch Behar in West Bengal.

India has 111 enclaves of such land within Bangladesh – nearly 70 sq km. Bangladesh has 51 enclaves – comprising 28 sq km surrounded by India.

According to sources, the two sides have decided to swap these pockets, which means Bangladeshi enclaves in Indian territory will remain with India and Indian enclaves in Bangladesh will remain with Bangladesh.

The agreement related to these enclaves will be finalised during Chidambaram’s visit and signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September.

If the deal is done, India will lose some 40 sq km of its territory to Bangladesh by conceding the enclaves within Bangladesh. However, it will put an end to a decade-long messy border issue between the two countries.

Chidambaram, during his 24-hour visit, will meet his Bangladesh counterpart Shahara Khatun. He will also meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni.

Accompanying the home minister are director general of India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and other senior officers.

The sources said Chidambaram would also discuss border fencing and matters concerning deportation of United Liberation Front of Asom leader Anup Chetia during his meeting with Khatun.