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Indian Cabinet Clears Bangladesh Border Pact

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By A Correspondent

Stalled since September last year, a constitutional amendment to ratify the India-Bangladesh boundary agreement gets the nod from the Cabinet committee on security (CCS) and is likely to be placed before Parliament in the monsoon session.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is looking to push through one of his big-ticket foreign policy initiatives, a bid to seal the Indian and Bangladeshi positions on enclaves and areas under adverse possession. Singh and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina had signed the land boundary agreement (LBA) in Dhaka last year.

An updated version of the Indira-Mujib agreement of 1974, the accord's ratification will require a constitutional amendment of Article 368. While the Teesta water treaty — blocked by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee — raised a lot of heat, the LBA has greater strategic importance for the neighbours.

If the LBA makes it through Parliament, it will be a boost for bilateral ties and ease the pressure on the Hasina government as India's inability to proceed with the Teesta treaty led to considerable heartburn in Bangladesh.

Government works for consensus

While the government looks to concretize the land boundary agreement (LBA) reached by PM Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh's Sheikh Hasina last year, the political climate in India is fragile enough for uncertainty to cloud the positive nature of the endeavour.

For the agreement to pass muster, the BJP has to be on board as without the main opposition, the constitutional amendment may not succeed. Sources said the government has been assiduously working with the BJP to ensure support, and the effort will be intensified in coming days as the government plans to engage with the saffron outfit's leadership.

Mamata Banerjee will have to be taken into confidence too, and sources said foreign minister S M Krishna had been assigned the task who is likely to travel to Kolkata. India and Bangladesh share a 4,096km land boundary covering West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram. The constitutional amendment will have to be passed by two-thirds of members "present and voting" and ratified by state legislatures. The Parliamentary and legislative processes are subject to disruption, but Singh needs to make some strenuous efforts in the coming months. The LBA will not only change contours of India's map, but will be the first resolved boundary with any neighbour. The agreement will formalize status quo on enclaves and areas under adverse possession, entailing neither transfer of territory nor people.Around 53,000 people residing in the enclaves, who have just been counted in the first ever census in these areas, will get the citizenship of the country they are living in.

Source: South Asia Media Net

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