THE 2015 INDIA-BANGLADESH LAND BOUNDARY AGREEMENT
Published by: ASHUTOSH KUMAR SINGH
The border between India and Bangladesh is very important to the relationship between the two countries, but it is difficult to control because of its sheer length. The most important bilateral initiative between Bangladesh and India is probably an attempt to resolve the long-standing border dispute that emerged after the 1947 partition through the 2015 Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and the exchange of enclaves and hostile property between the two countries.
There are 111 enclaves with a total area of 17,160.63 acres, from India to Bangladesh; out of which India acquired 51 enclaves in Bangladesh with a total area of 7,110.02 hectares. Prior to this historic agreement, the agreement signed by Manmohan Singh of India and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh in 2011 called for the removal of 2,777,038 acres of Bangladeshi acres in India by addressing the problem of unfavourable land tenure issues. The 2011 protocol was negotiated with the governments of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal, but it was not implemented due to the unfavourable political environment. Three parts of an undefined land boundary approximately 6.1 kilometres long: Daikhata-56 (West Bengal), Mukhuri Belonia River (Tripura) and Latitila Dumabari (Assam); exchange of enclaves; and possession, for the first time in the 2011. It is worth noting that Bangladesh has gained more territory than India through land exchange.
Although LBA is a positive step to begin the exchange of territory, scientists and analysts agree that LBA does not represent a complete break with the situation before LBA. Despite major changes in the nature and context of the problem, the problems before the LBA have obviously continued. Now, it has changed from the identity crisis faced by former residents of the enclave under the former LBA to the problem of poor management and conflict of interest between the central government and the state in the post-LBA period. The new citizens, coupled with the lack of coordination between the central and state of India, seem to have turned the enclave into the focal point of local politics.
Relations between India and Bangladesh
Bilateral relations reached their lowest point at this stage and ended in 2006. In addition to anti-Hindu violence and the corresponding influx of refugees into India after 2001, election violence, India’s main perception of security threats, affected bilateral relations during this period. When the transitional government changed its power in 2006, there was a clear shift. India and Bangladesh shed their hostile positions and tried to stabilize their bilateral relations. The 2008 9th Jatiya Sangsad (National Assembly) brought Sheikh Hasina to Dhaka and changed bilateral relations. The Awami League government resolved India’s major security issues and sent a positive message to encourage further cooperation.
Signing of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA)
The joint communiqué signed by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, during his historic visit to India in January 2010 is clearly the creed of the two neighbouring countries. In addition to many other issues, the two sides agreed to resolve the unresolved border issues. The signing of the protocol (September 2011) paved the way for resolving the long-standing land-boundary problem. India and Bangladesh joined forces to resolve outstanding issues. Issues related to an undefined land boundary of approximately 6.1 km; exchanging enclaves; earlier enclave records were exchanged and checked in 2005; however, the joint land cadastral and terrain team laid the foundation for a more comprehensive understanding. In 2007, a two-phase survey was conducted for the first time. The land border treaty process that began many years ago only gained momentum in 2007.Since the establishment of the bilateral cooperation framework, Indian leaders have shown interest in solutions including land border disputes. After the signing of the agreement in 2011, the Indian government tried to submit a bill to the parliament in 2013, but it was unsuccessful due to resistance from some political parties. Although for different reasons, disagreements with the governments of Assam and West Bengal inhibited this process-ironically, the same parties, namely the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC), under the changed circumstances changed their position. In fact, the permanent members of the parliamentary committee recommended to pass the bill accepted a member of the TMC into the institution. The West Bengal government also had serious reservations about the centre in the past, and also reservations about bilateral contacts with Bangladesh, and but after 2014 resigned from its previous position. The prospect of financial assistance from the Modi government may have contributed to this process.
The pragmatic attitude of the Indian leaders paved the way for Prime Minister Modi's visit to Bangladesh (June 6, 2015) to finally sign the relevant agreement. The Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha, May 6, 2015 and Lok Sabha, May 7, 2015) facilitated the relocation of 111 enclaves (17,160.63 acres) from India to Bangladesh (Panchagarh, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram and Nilfamari in Rangpur) and again won the enclave (7,110.02 acres) in Cooch Behar, West Bengal. India however lost about 40 square kilometres/10,000 acres of land to Bangladesh. Moreover, India also transferred 2,267,682 acres of land to Bangladesh, considering the adjustments. After the approval letter was exchanged, 75 teams and 30 observers jointly investigated (since July 616, 2015) the citizenship of residents in the enclave. Previous comments on the joint visit (May 2007) of some enclaves and vulnerable institutions indicated that the population living in the enclave is basically integrated into the area where they live and is reluctant to leave the country. Most people expressed their desire to stay in their place. The enclave exchange was completed and a 6.1-kilometer boundary was delimited. For West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura, the territorial demarcation process for "hostile territories" ended on June 30, 2016 (the 2011 protocol) . Obviously, the signing of the LBA was a grand celebration for India on Independence Day on August 15, 2015. However, there are still problems that need attention.
Problems that need attention
As mentioned earlier, the permeability of the land border between India and Bangladesh has been encouraging smuggling activities between the two countries to be active. Obviously, there is a strong economic motivation. Cattle dominate the informal trade within India. The export of 1.7 million cattle to Bangladesh each year is indeed the main cause of border violence. These issues are often discussed at different levels, and it is generally believed that drawing a line can solve one of them. Despite some measures, such as the use of non-lethal projectiles and raising the awareness of security forces, Bangladesh has never accepted a proposal to ban operations after dark. As the cross-border smuggling continues, and many violent incidents usually occur after sunset. Tariffs and non-tariff barriers may reduce informal trade in certain commodities, but livestock and smuggling continue to flow across borders. At the same time, the ability of the current leadership of India to reach internal consensus (including opposition) and to overcome the reservations of the Bhartiya Janata Party through strategic exercises and prioritizing the greatest achievements is obvious. In the latest round of border negotiations, West Bengal joined in to please the central leadership of Assam and other states to resolve differences with a view to finally resolving the land border issue. A change of government seeking to build a broader base of political support seems to be achieving positive results by eliminating differences through incentives, however it won’t be an easy task.
The imminent territories of these two countries have created an inhumane situation for our citizens of this loving world, and have been victims for the past 67 years because of their helpless and inhuman conditions without the support of their home country. It is worth noting that so far, none of the former Bengal enclaves in India have decided to return to Bangladesh. In view of the fact that 989 people living in the Indian enclaves of Bangladesh have immigrated to the Indian mainland; the children of the Tista river are beginning to forget their past nightmarish days; but apart from confirming the national identity of the citizens, the Indian government has not provided any assistance to Bangladesh. The former enclave initiates any other basic rehabilitation program. The problems of land registration and settlement in the former enclaves of Bangladesh are still unresolved; they have not yet received work as per the guidelines or alternative job opportunities. They have not yet introduced an education support system for their children; and the former enclaves of Bangladesh still lack infrastructure. In the Indian enclave of Bangladesh where they once lived, they had their own land to cultivate and were able to move to Bangladeshi land to find employment opportunities; but after immigrating to the Indian mainland, they lost their land and became unemployed. All these old enclaves, people worry for being denied justice which they duly deserve with a ray of hope on their hazy eyes.
Footnotes: “India, Bangladesh sign historic land boundary agreement.” The Hindu Business Line, 6 June 2015. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/india-bangladesh-sign-historic-land-boundary-agreement/article7289332.ece. “India and Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement Booklet.” Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, 2011. http://www.mea.gov.in/Uploads/PublicationDocs/24529_LBA_MEA_Booklet_final.pdf.  Ishtiaq Hossain, “Bangladesh-India Relations: Issues and Problems,” Asian Survey, Vol. 21, No. 11. (Nov. 1981), pp. 1115-1128  Ibid Suvojit Bagchi, “India Bangladesh begin land survey,” The Hindu, December 17, 2015 at http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/india-bangladesh-begin-land-survey/article7997923.ece