By Devika Kohli:
What is the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA)?
The LBA “refers to demarcated land boundaries in accordance with the India-Bangladesh agreement signed on May 16, 1974”. These ‘demarcated boundaries’ exist in the form enclaves in India and Bangladesh. India possesses 106 enclaves of territory in Bangladesh while Bangladesh has 92 enclaves in India. Thus, both countries occupy land in the other country.
What is an enclave?
An enclave is any portion of a state that is totally surrounded by the territory of another state . In case of India, they are spread out in the areas of Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya. Out of these enclaves, there are also 24 counter-enclaves (an enclave within an enclave) thus making the whole structure extremely complex!
Why was LBA required?
The Bangladeshi and Indian enclaves are located deep inside their respective countries resulting in a strong incidence on their administration. Also, since the sovereign country has no real control over its respective enclave, their inhabitants lead a miserable life as they are basically stateless and denied access to basic infrastructure due to their peculiar geographical positioning.
The Land Boundary Agreement Bill seeks to address this problem through swapping land (enclaves) between the two countries and redrawing the complex border. However, the exchange of land between the two countries is a mere legal formality as they are already in possession of the respective land which is meant to be transferred.
Brief historical context of the LBA
A similar proposition to swap enclaves was made in 1974 under the Indira-Mujib Agreement and was cleared by Bangladesh’s Parliament; however, it could not materialize owing to the internal politics of India at the time. After 1974, this issue is being addressed by the Modi government which has met with strong opposition from regional parties such as Trinamool Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad. The BJP government itself had opposed the ratification of the Indira-Mujib Agreement under the Manmohan Singh government in 2011. However, the BJP stance has changed with Narendra Modi,who managed to achieve a consensus in his party, at its helm. He had assured his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina of a positive course of action last year in New York and has honoured his word.
Why the clearance of the 119th Constitutional Amendment Bill ratifying the LBA is a positive step
It will give a tremendous boost to bilateral relations with Bangladesh. The decision will have a positive outcome on India’s image as a neighbour as well as on the people residing in the enclaves, which in the absence of law enforcing agencies had become a haven for criminal elements. Also, Mr. Modi has set a great precedent prior to his visit to China, demonstrating that the problem of Sino-Indian border can be resolved in a similar fashion.
 Raton, Pierre (1958). “Les enclaves”. Annuaire français de droit international 4. p. 186.