Land Swap

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Published: May 9, 2015 12:32:39 AM

The govt has managed to resolve a key border issue with Bangladesh, but this is by far the easiest one

With Parliament unanimously approving the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) that allows for the swapping of territories between India and Bangladesh, the 1974 pact between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman has finally reached its conclusion. But, then this is not truly a border dispute, like the ones we have with Pakistan and China. It is about enclaves of the two countries in each other’s territories. Sure, India will end up losing close to 40 sq km of land in the bargain; but that would be a small price to pay for gaining the confidence of the eastern neighbour.

Meanwhile, for the BJP, it is a turnaround from 2011 when, while in the Opposition, it objected to the LBA saying that no land should be ceded to Bangladesh. The 4,142 kilometre, India-Bangladesh border covers five Indian states—West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. West Bengal and the BJP unit in Assam had been opposed to the swap. The government managed to coax West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee though, sweetening the deal for the state with a R3,008 crore package to rehabilitate Indian nationals who will come from Bangladesh. While a start has been made in sorting out one contentious border issue, this is by far the easiest of them all. With Modi visting China from May 14, it is time to start trying to resolve the more knotty borders. That is where the true test of leadership lies.

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