Rajya Sabha on Wednesday unanimously passed a historic bill to operationalise the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh that provides for exchange of territories to settle the 41-year border issue.

The Constitution (119th) Amendment Bill, which will allow the operationalisation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary agreement, was passed with full support from 181 members. The bill will be taken up by Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

"This is an historic situation. We are going to implement the agreement after 41 years. I am happy that everyone supported the bill," said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj while moving the bill for passage.

Source: Times of India

During the UPA's rule the BJP had opposed this measure, talking about this Swaraj said, "E arlier we had opposed it. We were told to include Assam, which has been done."

Contending the agreement will benefit both countries, she said the Union Home Ministry will handle the the implementation of it. " We are aware of the complexities involved in implementation of the agreement. The earlier we implement (the agreement), sooner we reap the benefits," she said.

The bill aims at giving effect to the acquiring of territories by India and transfer of territories to Bangladesh through retaining of adverse possession and exchange of enclaves in pursuance of the agreement of 1974.

The territories in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya come under the ambit of the bill.

An earlier plan to exclude Assam from the land swap agreement, due to fierce resistance from the BJP's Assam unit, ahead of the state elections this year, has now been dumped. On May 5, the government's floor managers sought to put the blame for excluding Assam on Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam. This was rejected by Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi who reiterated that the party has been consistent with its position in the Assembly. It has always been in favour of swapping 268 acres in lieu of 714 acres currently with Bangladesh.

PM Modi with Sheikh Hasina PM of Bangladesh | Source: scroll.in

Once Parliament clears the Bill, it would pave the way for the historic agreement being ratified by India at a formal signing ceremony expected to take place when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Dhaka in June.

Sealing porous borders

In a letter to Prime Minister Modi, Assam CM Tarun Gogoi had urged him to put aside differences and include Assam in the treaty. He cited advantages to adding Assam to the agreements, such as construction of a border fence which will deter the infiltration of illegal migrants, drug smuggling and subversive elements.

According to the agreement, India is to receive 2,777.038 acres of land and is required to transfer 2267.682 acres to Bangladesh, much of which has already been effected on the ground already.

Tarun Gogoi | Source: newslivetv.com

Timeline

1974 - May 16 : Indian-Bangladesh Agreement inked not ratified

India has 11 enclaves within Bangladesh (70 square km)

Bangladesh has 51 enclaves in India (28 square km)

Most enclaves are in Assam, West Bengal, Meghalya, Tripura

2011 - September 6: Bangladesh and India to sign protocol pact

2013 - December 18: The Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, introduced in Rajya Sabha

Bill amends the First Schedule of the Constitution that defines the area of each State, Union Territory

2015 - April 29: Cabinet clears the revised land boundary agreement delinking Assam.

Centre likely to introduce revised Bill in Parliament next week

May 6: Rajya Sabha unanimously passes Bill.

(With inputs from PTI)

Feature image source: zimbio.com