Bangladesh and India moving towards agreement to eliminate enclaves
(14 March 2011)
Recent news reports suggest that Bangladesh and India may be close to agreeing a territorial deal that would eliminate their numerous enclaves concentrated in the Cooch Behar region along the northern portion of their international boundary. These reports suggest that there are 111 Indian enclaves on the Bangladeshi side of the international boundary totalling around 17,000 acres, and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves on the Indian side totalling approximately 7,000 acres, although research based on historical reports from the mid-1960s suggest that these figures may be underestimated. The individual enclaves range in size from less than an acre to several square kilometers, and some contain counter-enclaves within enclaves. The precise details of the deal have not been released but the possible territorial exchange would affect an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 inhabitants who would be offered the option of accepting citizenship within Bangladesh or India if remaining within the former enclaves, or migrating to the territory of their original citizenship.
The situation of the enclaves originates in the complex territorial arrangement of the Cooch Behar and Rangpur states, prior to British imperial rule and the partition of India in 1947. After independence, Bangladesh and India signed a boundary agreement in 1974 that would have eliminated the enclaves. This agreement was never implemented although it may form the basis of the current negotiations. Management of the enclaves has been difficult and inhabitants are often cut-off from vital state services on respective sides of the boundary. Any new boundary agreement, currently being put together by the Joint Bangladesh-India Border Committee, would need to go through complex ratification procedures. Both states are due to conduct census in the enclaves in 2011 which may pave the way for implementing the prospective deal.
Sources: 'Border row: India, Bangla plan 'land swap\' deal' Maneesh Chhibber, Indian Express, 13 March 2011; 'India-Bangladesh relations: Border progress' Economist Intelligence Unit - Business India Intelligence, 9 March 2011; 'India, Bangla to redraw border' Josy Joseph & Indrani Bagchi, The Times of India, 26 February 2011; 'Delhi set to resolve boundary issues' Domain-B (Dhaka) 21 February 2011.