Dhaka: India and Bangladesh on Saturday moved to exchange land enclaves in each other’s territory as both sides ratified the over 40-year-old Land Boundary Agreement at a formal signing ceremony attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also attended the ceremony to operationalise the land swap.
Modi tweeted: “History is made as the Instruments of Ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement are exchanged.”
A tweet by external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said: “‘Historic’ doesn’t really do justice to this red-letter day. Exchange of Instruments of Ratification of LBA.”
The land swap agreement envisages transfer of 111 enclaves with a total area of 17,160.63 acres to Bangladesh, while Dhaka is to transfer 51 enclaves with an area of 7,110.02 acres to India. A 6.1-km undefined border stretch will be demarcated.
The LBA was inked on May 16, 1974 by then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and her Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangladesh’s Jatiya Sangsad had ratified the LBA immediately after.
As it involved the transfer of territory, which required constitutional amendment, the process took time in india.
A protocol on the LBA was also signed by both sides on September 6, 2011.
The four Indian border states involved in the exchange of territories are Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal.
The 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh include 12 in Kurigram district, 59 in Nilphamari and 36 in Panhagarh.
The Indian enclaves are home to nearly 37,000 people while Bangladeshi enclaves have about 14,000 people.
According to the agreement, the people of the enclaves can choose citizenship of either country.
The settlement of the LBA comes as both countries have settled their maritime boundary.
On July 7, 2014, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration delineated the maritime boundary between the two neighbours, the Exclusive Economic Zone and the continental shelf within and beyond 200 nautical miles.
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, briefing reporters on Friday, said ratification of the LBA would help in improvement of the security situation, deal with trafficking, drug smuggling, in smuggling of counterfeit notes.
A demarcated border would also bring clarify and discipline and also help boost connectivity, the foreign secretary said.
With settlement of the boundary, both countries can move towards building border of infrastructure, especially in the north east to boost trade and sub-regional connectivity.