Bangladesh-India to swap 18th-century border enclaves

Dhaka: Prime Minster Narendra Modi will sign a border agreement on Saturday amongst many other pacts yet to be finalised between Bangladesh and India.

The two countries will seal a simplifying 4,000-km (2,500-mile) border agreement, over four decades after the neighbours first tried to untangle complex territorial rights set down in 1713. 

In 1974, the then leaders of the two countries – Indira Gandhi of India and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh – agreed to swap almost 200 enclaves of land located in one country but officially belonging to the other. 

“But with the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (in 1975), along with the almost all the members of his family, the process of the agreement stopped for a long time. 

Established by a treaty between two former princely states, the 106 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 92 Bangladeshi enclaves in India are islands of foreign territory inside each country, most of them close to the official border. 

Their inhabitants – about 37,330 in Indian enclaves and 14,200 in Bangladeshi enclaves – are deprived of public services because their governments have no access to them. 

Under the agreement, each country will take over most of the enclaves on its territory and inhabitants will have the right to stay where they are or move to the other side of the border. 

Ali said the two countries would also sign a number of deals to boost trade and security along the border and fight human trafficking. 

Officials would also discuss a possible increase in Indian aid for Dhaka and in Bangladeshi electricity imports from India. 

In a separate meeting on Friday, the Bangladeshi central bank governor Atiur Rahman urged Indian businesses to use his country as a low-cost manufacturing base for goods for local and global markets. 

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said the two countries could expand bilateral trade considerably if they opened new land customs stations and increased banking and financial cooperation. 

“Bangladesh aims to become a middle-income country by 2021 and India should emerge as a strong partner in realising this goal,” CII President Sumit Mazumder said in a statement. 

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