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PM firm on deal to swap land

New Delhi, Nov. 27: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today iterated that the government was committed to the land-swap deal with Bangladesh and sought the support of political parties.

While Singh told this to AGP MPs who met him in Parliament to protest the deal, this may serve as a message to the Trinamul Congress and the BJP also. Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee has reservations on the deal, which would mean enclaves in Bengal’s Cooch Behar area would be transferred to Bangladesh.

In fact, the Centre today held an “official briefing” for political parties since the land transfer will mean their support for a constitutional amendment, sources said.

The AGP MPs met Singh ahead of an expected clearance of the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, 1974 and its 2011 Protocol by the Union cabinet. The party also held a sit-in in Assam today to protest the land-swap deal.

The government says the agreement has been implemented in its entirety except for three pending issues — demarcation of about 61km of un-demarcated boundary; territories in adverse possession; and exchange of enclaves.

“We told the Prime Minister that the government should first stop infiltration from Bangladesh and then think of the land deal. The Prime Minister told us that the land deal is a commitment while steps are being taken to stop infiltration,” AGP MP in Rajya Sabha, Kumar Deepak Das, said after the meeting.

Another AGP MP, Birendra Prasad Baishya, said the Prime Minister felt that Assam would not be substantially affected by the land-swap deal. Singh is understood to have told the AGP delegation that India wants resolution of the boundary dispute. The AGP’s protest was registered with the Prime Minister on a day when the Coordination Committee of Indigenous Tribal National Organisations, an umbrella organisation of over 70 groups from Assam, demonstrated at Jantar Mantar and submitted a 12-point memorandum to the Prime Minister, requesting prevention of illegal migration into Assam and implementation of the Assam Accord.

The Centre’s priorities, however, are clear.

The protocol signed during the Prime Minister’s visit to Dhaka on September 6, 2011 will enable exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves on Indian territory, redrawing boundaries to maintain status quo in areas of adverse possessions, which will result in a fixed demarcated boundary in all un-demarcated segments.

This will resolve disputes at some 25 points along the 4,156km international border along which India adversely possesses 1,165.49 acres of Bangladesh land, while Bangladesh possesses 1,880.81 acres on the Indian side.

A Gauhati High Court verdict in June this year stated that the land-swap deal between the two countries cannot be implemented without amending the Constitution. Amending the Constitution would require bringing a constitutional amendment bill in both the Houses of Parliament.