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India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange: History & Challenges



  Apr 25, 2024

India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange: History & Challenges



The complex issue of enclaves between India and Bangladesh dates back to the partition of India in 1947, which left many small pockets of land isolated within the territory of the neighboring country. These enclaves were essentially landlocked territories that belonged to one country but were completely surrounded by the territory of another. Over the decades, these enclaves created significant administrative and humanitarian issues, as they lacked proper governance and access to basic services.

Historic Land Boundary Agreement

The plight of the enclave residents was addressed formally through the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh, which was originally signed in 1974 and later amended in 2011. This agreement aimed to simplify the countries' shared border and improve the living conditions of the enclave dwellers by allowing them to choose their nationality and relocate accordingly.

The agreement led to the historic exchange of enclaves on July 31, 2015, at the stroke of midnight. Under this agreement:

★ India handed over 111 enclaves, comprising 17,160 acres, to Bangladesh.


★ Bangladesh transferred 51 enclaves, covering 7,110 acres, to India.

Population and Choices

Approximately 50,000 people lived in these enclaves in very challenging conditions without access to basic public services like schools, hospitals, and even legal identity documents. As part of the enclave exchange, the residents were given the option to either move to the country that their enclave was joining or remain in their current location and change their nationality.

Challenges Post-Exchange

The exchange of enclaves was seen as a major step towards resolving a long-standing border issue. However, the resettlement process brought its own set of challenges, particularly for those who chose to move. Many who moved to India, such as the residents now in Dinhata, Cooch Behar, were promised housing, financial aid, and integration into the Indian administrative system.

Despite these promises, many resettled individuals have struggled with inadequate infrastructure, lack of official documentation, and insufficient support in transitioning to their new lives. This has led to significant discontent and feelings of neglect among the former enclave residents, who find themselves caught in bureaucratic and political limbo.

The story of enclave exchanges between India and Bangladesh highlights the complex interplay between geopolitics and human rights. It underscores the need for meticulous planning and comprehensive support systems to ensure that geopolitical resolutions do not overlook the humanitarian aspects involved in such exchanges. This backdrop is crucial for understanding the current frustrations and demands of enclave residents in Cooch Behar as they seek to integrate into the political and social fabric of India.


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