The Indian government is set to introduce a bill that facilitates the transfer of the civilian enclaves between India and Bangladesh in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
If the bill on land boundary agreement (LBA) goes through, it will facilitate the transfer of 111 Indian civilian enclaves that are on the Bangladesh side of the border, to Bangladesh. In turn, 51 Bangladeshi civilian enclaves that are inside the Indian border will permanently become part of India, physically as well in the record books, report Indian media.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister met top BJP leaders, including L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. The meeting didn’t yield any result and the BJP leaders conveyed their concerns on the protocol to the land boundary agreement that was signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011.
Sources say India wants to complete the process of settling the civilian enclave issue before Bangladesh elections, scheduled later this year, for tactical reasons. It is widely believed that settling the civilian enclave issue may improve Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s chances of retaining power. Ms Hasina’s Awami League is facing a tough challenge from Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the radical Jamiat.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni too visited India last month to convince India to conclude the civilian enclave settlement agreement. The Prime Minister told Ms Moni that the government intends to take the agreement for ratification to Parliament. Ms Moni even called on Mr Jaitley.
The UPA government had in principle agreed to settle the issue of civilian enclaves. Initially, the BJP too seemed in favour of a permanent settlement of the border issue. But the situation changed after the party’s Assam unit president Sarbananda Sonowal took a position against it and the BJP central leadership supported him.
In fact, the government had tried introducing the civilian agreement bill in the Budget Session, but two Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) MPs, Biren Baishya and Kumar Deepak Das, snatched it from the floor of the House. “We will not give an inch of our land no matter what the Centre tells Bangladesh,” said Mr Baishya.
Let’s take a look at why the civilian enclave issue is so sensitive and what the bill seeks to address:
·The 2011 protocol seeks to address the outstanding boundary issues and is aimed at fixing demarcated boundary in all the undemarcated segments.
·As per the in-principle agreement, the civilian enclaves situated on the border will go the country where they are situated. So, Bangladesh will get 111 enclaves and 51 settlements will go to India.
·It also seeks a resolution on all the “adversely possessed areas” – land that’s part of record in one country but physically belongs to another. In other words, land mass that may be shown as part of India but actually belongs to Bangladesh. Or vice versa.
The agreement wants to correct such anomalies, but both India and Bangladesh know it will be difficult to set the record straight.