Indo-Bangla joint headcount survey in disputed enclaves

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Anisur Rahman

Dhaka, Jan 24 (PTI) Bangladesh and India will soonlaunch a joint enclave population survey to exchange landslocated in each other�s territory in a bid to end a protractedcross-border problem, a top official has said.

"The Bangladesh side constituted 10 committeescomprising concerned officials and we now await Indianresponse to launch the headcount survey in enclaves as soon aspossible," Kamaluddin Ahmed, the joint secretary in the HomeMinistry, told PTI.

Ahmed, who was the co-chair of Joint Boundary WorkingGroup and Joint Working Group that concluded last Thursday,said Indian officials assured Dhaka of constituting identicalteams to carry out the survey ahead of the planned Bangladeshvisit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in next few months.

Last week, the Home Secretaries of the two countriesdiscussed ways to expedite the process of exchanges agreedbetween the two neighbours under a 1974 agreement.

Bangladesh and India agreed to sort out all problemsrelated to the common border within the next two months, aheadof the visit by Singh.

Bangladesh Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikdar, whoheld a crucial two-day talks with his Indian counterpart GopalK Pillai last week, said all border and security relatedissues were discussed in the meeting and both the sides areworking sincerely to resolve the ongoing problems in shortestpossible time.

Officials familiar with the process earlier said thesurveyors would use a simple form of head count of residentsof the enclaves for the first time sine the 1947 Partition ofthe Indian sub-continent.

Bangladesh and India share over 4,000 kilometers ofcommon porous border, of which 6.1 kilomtres were still to bedemarcated. The two countries have 162 such enclaves, 111 ofthem being Indian inside Bangladesh and the rest 51 beingBangladeshi inside India.

The population of the 111 Indian enclaves wasunofficially estimated to be over a lakh on 17,000 acres ofland while the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside India have44,000 people on 7,000 acres.

Officials said 3,000 acres of Bangladesh land areinside India while India has around 3,500 acres of land insideBangladesh.

The enclave residents need to cross internationalborder every day for cultivation and have to follow officialformalities as well as clearance from the paramilitary borderguards of the two countries.

Ahmed said most of the residents of the enclavesearlier agreed to change their nationalities under theexchange plans, but would be given another chances to opt formigration once the exchanges were made.

"Despite a popular notion that the exchange problemwas created in 1947, actually these enclaves were createdduring the British rule 300 years ago when the kings of nativestates handed over pieces to their counterparts in neghbouringstates losing bounty after losing in gambling," theBangladeshi joint secretary said.

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