24/7 access for Bangla via corridor

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI
  • Published 21.07.11
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Sonia Gandhi and P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, July 20: Indian and Bangladeshi officials will tomorrow finalise a plan for 24-hour access to Bangladeshis through the Teen Bigha Corridor days before the visits of Sonia Gandhi and P. Chidambaram to Dhaka.

The UPA chairperson will travel to Bangladesh on July 25 for a conference and the home minister will follow on July 28-29. These visits will culminate in that of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose meeting with his counterpart Sheikh Hasina in September is being billed as the biggest since the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Mujib accord of 1974.

When officials meet tomorrow morning at the Teen Bigha Corridor — a strip of land in Cooch Behar that connects Bangladeshi mainland with its enclave Dahagram-Angarpota in Indian territory — the attempt will be to clear some ground for the path-breaking resolution of the border issue hoped for in September.

Once the stage is set for 24-hour access, Hasina is expected to go Dahagram-Angarpota to make a grand announcement. At present, India allows 12-hour access from dawn to dusk.

“I am very happy that this is being done. It is symbolic,” said former Indian high commissioner to Dhaka Deb Mukharji.

The thickly populated enclave will be linked to Patgram and Panbari villages in Bangladesh by a fenced corridor.

“The question to be resolved is how and when will Indian citizens cross the area if that corridor is completely fenced,” a source said.

Tomorrow’s gathering on the India side will include the deputy Indian high commissioner in Dhaka, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, a joint secretary from the home ministry, an inspector-general of the BSF and an officer of the Survey of India.

The issue, however, is seen as trivial compared to what the two nations expect to achieve in the coming weeks.

Chidambaram will be witness to the signing of the Border Management Scheme (or Plan as termed by Bangladesh) between the directors-general of the BSF and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). Following several incidents of violence along the porous border, the two countries have agreed to come together to manage the border.

Seven Bangladeshi citizens, four Indian citizens and a BSF soldier were killed in clashes between security forces and goons along the border this year, official sources said.

Chidambaram will meet Bangladesh home minister Sahara Khatun and will call on the Prime Minister, sources said.

The September meeting between Prime Ministers Singh and Hasina is expected to result in a comprehensive framework of various agreements on power and infrastructure and, above all, a resolution of the border issue.