India, Bangladesh sign maps, settle boundary row (Lead)

August 20th, 2011 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Dhaka, Aug 20 (IANS) India and Bangladesh Saturday began signing border maps in Dhaka, officially recognising their 4,156-km international boundary and ending a decades-old lingering discord over the issue.

The maps were signed at the Department of Land Records and Surveys (DLRS), ahead of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh Sep 6-7.

Tariq Ahmad Karim, Bangladesh High Commissioner to New Delhi, and Rajeet Mitter, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka, signed some of the 1,149 maps.

The border demarcation team chief, Joint Home Secretary (political) Kamal Uddin Ahmed said Bangladesh made half of the maps while the rest were made by India.

“The maps were finalised after scrutiny by representatives of the two countries,” quoted him as saying.

Ahmed said the high commissioners of the two countries will sign eight copies of each map.

Though the current border is recognised by both countries, it will get legal backing once the maps are signed.

However, a 6.5-km-long stretch between the two countries is yet to be demarcated, the report said.

Ahmed said the representatives of the two countries will finalise the maps for this part soon.

The demarcation of the boundary between India and then east Pakistan began in 1947. A preliminary draft on the demarcation was signed in 1956. The process was stalled later.

When Bangladesh was liberated in 1971, then prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his then Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi signed an agreement in 1974 for border demarcation. But the process was stopped again.

The issue was highlighted again during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India last year.

Survey of Bangladesh and DLRS conducted the demarcation surveys.

DLRS made 628 maps covering 2,262 km of Bangladesh-Paschimbanga border, 269 maps for 874 km Bangladesh-Tripura border, 93 maps for 264-km Bangladesh-Assam border and 139 maps for 436-km Bangladesh-Meghalaya border.

Survey of Bangladesh made 20 maps for 320-km Bangladesh-Mizoram border, the surveyor general of the organisation Brig Gen Mohammad Mominul Haque said.

Home Minister Shahara Khatun, Land Minister Rezaul Karim Hira and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, among others, were present at the signing ceremony.

Maj Gen Girish Kumar, head of the boundary cell of the Indian external affairs ministry, and M. Subaidu, counsellor of the political wing of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, also attended.

Terming the signing “historic”, the ministers said the settlement of the border will help improve relations between the two countries.

Ahmed said the dispute over enclaves would be settled during Singh’s visit to Dhaka. The Indian prime minister will sign a deal with his Bangladeshi counterpart to swap the enclaves, he said.

There are 111 Indian enclaves with 37,000 people in Bangladesh, while 51 enclaves with 14,000 people lie in West Bengal.

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