Parliament passes bill to redraw border with Bangladesh

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New Delhi: India’s Parliament on Thursday, 7 May passed a constitutional amendment bill approving the historic Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh. The unanimous acceptance of the legislation is a huge step forward towards settling a long-simmering border dispute. The agreement is aimed at fixing a historical oddity left after the Partition in 1947. It involves a swap of land or enclaves between the two nations which belong to one country but are located in the other’s territory. It will end decades of uncertainty for tens of thousands of citizens living in enclaves on the “wrong” side of their homeland’s border.

It would redraw the country’s boundaries as India would hand over 17,000 acres of land to Bangladesh in return for 7,000 acres in 111 enclaves in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura. Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally thanked Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha after lawmakers cleared the land swap that Bangladesh and India have been negotiating for years. “Historic milestone in India-Bangladesh relations,” Mr Modi tweeted after the Lok Sabha’s nod.

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 LBA signed between India and Bangladesh in 1974 for exchange of enclaves.

TOI reports that External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj won the hearts of the entire opposition on Wednesday, 6 May, by crediting the Manmohan Singh government for putting in the hard work. “Manmohan Singh is the one who started the whole thing. I have merely completed the task,” she said, thanking the former PM who was present in the Rajya Sabha. She pointed out that the bill is exactly the same- to the last comma and full stop- as was presented by UPA in Parliament in December 2013. “It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone,” she said, ascribing the quote to leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. Calling the passage of the bill “historic”, Swaraj said it would take India-Bangladesh relations to a new high by settling the 41-year border issue. 

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