Why Sushma Swaraj’s little-noticed change of tune in Dhaka is a good sign

The Bharatiya Janata Party has had to reevaluate its position on a number of issues since coming to power, from rail ticket prices to classified documents dealing with wars in India’s history. One little discussed instance is the party’s changed stance on the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, signed in 1974. The LBA – also known as the Indira-Mujib pact, after the signatory prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman – proposes to modify the international border the two countries share so that the 162 landlocked islands held by the neighbours in each other’s territory will be geographically contiguous with the nations they belong to. The 162 enclaves are home to about 50,000 people.

Last year, the BJP stood in vehement opposition to the agreement. But the party’s change of heart might be a good thing. If the BJP government is able to create a political consensus for the agreement in India, the fifty thousand or so people who have been effectively stateless since Independence will finally be able to claim full citizenship of one or the other country. When the agreement was signed in 1974, both parties agreed to take the matter back to their Parliaments for ratification. While Bangladesh ratified the agreement within the year, India has failed to do so.


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