Modi favours land swap deal with Bangladesh

BJP had opposed the bill when it was in opposition

Modi favours land swap deal with Bangladesh

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated his government’s willingness to implement the controversial India-Bangladesh land boundary agreement, a parliamentary panel on Monday recommended that the Bill to ratify the deal was in the “overall national interest” and it should soon be taken up by Parliament. 

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs has submitted a report to Parliament, stating that it was of the “strong opinion” that the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013 was in the “overall national interest” as it would pave the way for broader bilateral ties with Bangladesh, which had been “one of the closest neighbours” of India.

 The Bill seeks to amend the Constitution in order to ratify not only the India-Bangladesh land boundary agreement inked in 1974, but also the additional protocol added to it during the then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in 2011. 

The BJP had joined the Asom Gana Parishad and All India Trinamool Congress to oppose the Bill, which the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government had introduced in Rajya Sabha on December 19 last year amid protests.

The opposition had argued that the deal would make India loose more land to Bangladesh, than what it would gain.

Arun Jaitley, who was then Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had also written a letter to the Secretary General of the Upper House on December 5 last, opposing the Bill. 

Modi, however, on Sunday told BJP workers in Guwahati that the land swap deal would be beneficial and although its implementation might cause “immediate loss” for Assam, it would serve security interests in the long-run and help resolve the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh.

The Land Boundary Agreement inked by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi and her Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1974 had not been ratified by India. 

The new protocol added to it in September 2011 sought to resolve pending disputes on un-demarcated stretches, facilitating exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India and preserving status quo in adversely possessed land.

 The Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, which on Monday asked the government to take “urgent steps” to present the proposed legislation before Parliament “without any further delay”.

 The panel, however, also noted that not only would some Indian citizens return to the mainland, but a number of Bangladeshi nationals would also be given Indian citizenship. 

“The committee is of the view that the security dimensions of this influx of population should be considered seriously by the government,” said the parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

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