Indian Parliament on Thursday passed the constitutional amendment bill regarding the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh, with the Lok Sabha’s unanimous nod to the legislation.
The Lower House, showing rare unanimity, passed the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill to allow the operationalisation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary agreement.
All the 331 members present in the House voted for the bill which became the 100th Constitutional amendment passed by Parliament.
“Historic milestone in India-Bangladesh relations,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted after the Lok Sabha’s nod. Modi also thanked opposition parties, including Sonia Gandhi for support to the bill and spoke to his counterpart Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina over the issue.Our borders are not getting contracted,” Sushma Swaraj said, while responding to members’ questions whether India will lose some territory.
The bill was unanimously passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday when members buried their sharp ideological divide – from Shiv Sena to CPM – to unanimously give effect to the Land Boundary Agreement signed between India and Bangladesh in 1974 for exchange of enclaves.
Swaraj said the measure, apart from demarcating the boundaries, would also help checking illegal immigration.
“A solution to the problem of illegal immigration is inherent in this legislation. With the land border now being decided (with the passage of the bill), the portions where there is no fencing will also get fenced,” she said.
Swaraj said the only issue which remained to be settled with Bangladesh was that of river water-sharing, primarily relating to Teesta river. “The way in which we are now settling the land boundary issue, we will try to settle this issue also.”
She also announced a package of Rs 3,008 crore to West Bengal for rehabilitation Indian nationals who will come from Bangladesh, with their numbers estimated to go up to 30,000. Of this amount, Rs 775 crore is for expenses on fixed infrastructure and the remaining amount would be for variable expenses, depending upon how many people are to be rehabilitated by the state government. The maritime boundary between India and Bangladesh has also been settled last year with the award by the international tribunal.
The Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, which will change the contours of the Indian map, will have significant foreign policy and national security implications for India.
Signed in 1974, it has been ratified by Bangladesh. Once ratified by India, the agreement will forever delineate and demarcate one of India’s three undecided boundaries and will be a very big step in securing the borders. It will grant statehood to almost 53,000 people affected by the complicated system of enclaves and adverse possessions that was a pre-independence legacy. It will allow both India and Bangladesh to develop and secure their border areas.
When cleared by Parliament, it will pave the way for PM Narendra Modi to visit Bangladesh, possibly in June, a key element in his neighbourhood policy. India also owes Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina, who has proved to be a pillar of support on India’s security sensitivities. She is currently battling severe internal pressures, and while India has maintained its support for her, the LBA would be a big fillip.
Bangladeshi officials and political leaders were dismayed at the prospect of an incomplete agreement but refrained from making a political issue of it. Putting a brave face, they had reconciled to the fact that an incomplete deal was better than no deal. Movement on the LBA, combined with fresh negotiations on a Teesta water sharing deal, has reopened the bilateral relationship.
Assam shares a 262km land boundary with Bangladesh. In the Dumabari-Lathitilla border area, there was a 2.5km disputed area, which had been resolved in the 2011 agreement. This gave Assam an extra 700 acres of land. On the adverse possessions agreement, Bangladesh will get 268 acres, while not disturbing the tea and betel plantations, a decision taken after a detailed border survey had been carried out. This land has been in Bangladesh’s possession anyway since independence, the agreement merely legalizes it.
A foreign ministry publication of India on the LBA said, “In reality, the transferred area has already been in possession of Bangladesh and the handing over of these areas to Bangladesh is merely a procedural formal acceptance of a de facto reality on the ground. The same applies to Indian adverse possessions within Bangladesh that would be transferred to the Indian Union in implementation of the 2011 protocol.” TOI