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New Delhi: India has cleared a historic land agreement with Bangladesh today to settle a long-simmering border dispute.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally thanked Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha after lawmakers cleared a land swap that Bangladesh and India have been negotiating for years.
This would contribute to a stable &peaceful boundary, better management & coordination of the border &will lead to enhanced security as well
- Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 7, 2015
The Constitutional amendment that has now been approved by both houses of Parliament is intended to end decades of uncertainty for tens of thousands of citizens living in enclaves on the "wrong" side of their homeland's border. Fifteen states in India now have to clear the amendment, which is unlikely to be a problem.
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Nearly 160 enclaves exist on either side of the border, a historical oddity left after the Partition in 1947.
The proposed solution would enable each side to acquire the enclaves within its borders, along with other disputed territories. People living in the enclaves would have the right to move to live in their original country of nationality or to become nationals of their 'new' country after the exchange.
There are 51 Bangladeshi enclaves with about 15,000 people within states like Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal. With the new agreement, these will become part of India and the people here have the option to relocate to Bangladesh if they prefer. Across the border, there are about 100 enclaves that now transfer officially to be a part of Bangladesh. The government has reversed an earlier decision to exclude Assam from the agreement.
The Congress, which is in power in Assam, had made it clear that the state should be part of the land swap deal. The ruling BJP needs the Congress' support to push through legislation in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in a minority.