India, Bangladesh move to swap enclaves

These are 162 enclaves - 111 in India and 51 in Bangladesh - involving 144,000 people and 17,158 acres of land.

Updated: Feb 20, 2011, 16:25 PM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh and India are in "serious moves" to exchange enclaves in each other`s territory to end suffering of the local people and consolidate bilateral ties, a media report said on Sunday.

These are 162 enclaves - 111 in India and 51 in Bangladesh - involving 144,000 people and 17,158 acres of land that are a legacy of partition of India in 1947.

Bangladesh Home Ministry sources told The Daily Star that the recent meetings of the Joint Boundary Working Group made significant progress in solving the outstanding issues of 6.5 km un-demarcated border, 162 enclaves and 6,500 acres of disputed land in each other`s territories.

As there is not that much complexity in swap of enclaves, they said, the two sides agreed to settle it first and continue talks on un-demarcated border and disputed land.

More meetings are scheduled to wrap up the pact in time for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s visit this year, the newspaper said quoting unnamed diplomatic sources.

According to unofficial estimates, the population of the 111 Indian enclaves is over 100,000 while the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside India have around 44,000 people.

The residents of the enclaves on both sides of the border will be given the option to decide which country they want to live in. Sources said most of the residents of the enclaves had earlier agreed to change their nationalities under the exchange plans.

Historians say these territories were part of high stake card or chess games between the kings of Cooch Behar and Rangpur and handed over to each other in payment for the gambling debts.

Official record shows India has 111 enclaves or nearly 17,158 acres of land in Panchagarh, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram and Nilphamari districts of Bangladesh.

On the other hand, Bangladesh has 51 enclaves measuring 7,110 acres in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal India.

In 1974, Bangladesh ratified the Mujib-Indira Land Boundary Agreement to resolve the problems, but India is yet to ratify the agreement.

Diplomatic sources said the exchange will work as a major confidence building measure between Dhaka and New Delhi, remove suffering of the residents, and more importantly, it will de-escalate border conflict, the newspaper said.