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The aborted Land Boundary Agreement in Indian parliament

Written By: HarunurRashid
23/08/2013 23:04
Foreign Relations

Salman Khurshid’s efforts to introduce the Land Boundary Agreement(LBA) Bill in Indian Parliament met with stiff opposition from unexpected quarters. This time it is not BJP – the strident opposition came from Mamata Banerjee’s lawmakers and the Asom Gana Parishad’s Birendra Prasad Baishya who carried two placards in the well of the House. It is the third time the Bill could not be introduced for discussion.

All negotiations involve a tactical game where you have to be cautious about what you give and what you gain. More important perhaps is how you give. In love affair which is a form of romantic negotiation, the girl must remember that she must not give her ‘all’ before she has got her own share in full. This is the predicament of the ruling Awami League led government in this subtle negotiation of land boundary agreement which can be traced back to the 1974 Indira Mujib Treaty. After the signing of the Treaty (was it Dr Kamal Hossain who signed on behalf of Bangladesh?), Bangladesh made over the Berubari union forthwith without having it ratified by the Jatiya Sangshad.

So the Tin Bigha Corridor went into hibernation for nearly 36 years. Now that a Treaty has been signed between Bangladesh and India during Manmohan Singh’s visit to thrash out the complicated issue of the enclaves, the government thought it had all the winds in the world in its sails. Before the border was redrawn after ratification in Indian parliament, Bangladesh sported a one-way friendship with India and did not deny India anything that the ‘friend’ wanted as a dowry. Now that the Awami League government is sensing debacle in the next general elections, the friend cannot come to her rescue. Not even a tokenism could be effected in the stiff opposition of the BJP and TMC. The post-wedding photograph, in Salman Khurshid’s language, seems a remote possibility.

BJP relented a little after discussion with Salman Khurshid and they agreed to at least introduce the Bill but they have not given any indication that they will go along with it. BJP does want to incur the displeasure of the voters in Assam and hence they are most likely to oppose it even if they allowed the discussion. Balbir Punj, a Rajya Sabha MP on the BJP rank who is likely to lead the attack on the LBA if it is introduced in the house, feels very strongly about the ‘flawed’ agreement. As he said in an exclusive interview with Kumkum Chadha, “We are giving 17000 acres of land in 111 enclaves and taking 7000 acres in 51 enclaves, if memory serves me right. So there is a net loss of 10000 acres of land. Add to that the fact that all those in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh want to migrate to India and the people living in Bangladesh enclaves in India do not want to go back to Bangladesh. So we get less land and more people” (the honourable member is forgetting Berubari). 

It is now clear that if the BJP comes to power Bangladesh will face a tough time with the LBA, for BJP now wants “A reworked agreement in India’s favour”. Gagoi, the Assam Chief Minister, though in Congress fold, made it clear in 2011 that he would not allow the transfer of an inch of territory to Bangladesh. The Pachimbanga Chief Minister, Mamata too feels strongly about what she feels is a ‘shady deal’ and refuses to allow even a gallon of water to flow downstream before her demands are met to irrigate lands within her territory. It’s a pity all those hilsa and jamdani have been of no avail! 

With all these opinions ready to pounce on the LBA in Indian parliament, it is highly unlikely that it will have a safe passage in this session of parliament, even if it is introduced. So we back to the maxim Dilli hanuz dur ast (Delhi is still far away) – at least for Bangladesh’s romance with India, that is the bitter truth for the moment. 

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About HarunurRashid

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  • Name: Professor M Harunur Rashid
  • From: Dhaka
  • Nationality: Bangladesh
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    Professor Harunur Rashid is a Cambridge Gradute, former professor of North South University, now Teaching English at International Islamic University Chittagong(IIUC), Dhaka Campus. Contributing as an Associate Editor of The Independent and former DG of Bangla Academy.


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