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Bangladesh, India Sign Border Pact, Vow Closer Trade Links
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India and Bangladesh on Saturday signed an agreement to simplify their 4,000-km (2,500-mile) border and clarify the identities of 52,000 living in enclaves, over four decades after the neighbours first tried to untangle complex territorial rights set down in 1713.
Under the deal, signed in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka, the two countries will swap 200 tiny enclaves, most of them close to the official border. Their inhabitants have been deprived of public services and living in squalid conditions.
Established by a treaty between two former princely states, the 106 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 92 Bangladeshi enclaves in India are islands of foreign territory inside each country.
Under the agreement, each country will take over most of the enclaves on its territory and residents will have the right to stay where they are or move to the other side of the border.
The deal was originally agreed in 1974 by Indira Gandhi of India and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. Progress stopped for a long time, however, after Mujibur was assassinated in 1975, and subsequent governments failed to agree on the transfer of enclaves.
Dhaka's Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali has described the deal, which has since been updated, as "a historic milestone in the relationship between the two neighboring south Asian countries."
The two prime ministers, along with the chief minister of West Bengal, India Mamata Banerjee, also inaugurated bus services along the border towns of India and Bangladesh.
The two countries are also looking to boost trade and security along the border and fight human trafficking.
"I wish you all a very happy journey," said Modi after flagging off the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus services.
Modi handed over a symbolic ticket of the Agartala- Dhaka-Kolkata service to Hasina and in return, she handed over a symbolic ticket of Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati service to him.
Banerjee gave Hasina a symbolic ticket of the Kolkata- Dhaka-Agartala service.
Modi said the bus services - that will link West Bengal to three North Eastern states of India via Bangaldeshi capital Dhaka - will strengthen relations between both the countries.
The Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala service would reduce by 560 kms or nearly one-third the distance between West Bengal and the landlocked state of Tripura - which is surrounded by Bangladesh from three sides - benefitting commuters.
Contending that the two countries have added new dimensions to the economic ties, the Indian leader said the coastal shipping agreement will boost bilateral trade while the Indian Economic Zone will promote Indian investments in Bangladesh.
"The new border haat at Kamalasagar will reinforce traditional economic links. And, the agreement on blue economy and maritime cooperation opens a new area of economic opportunities. We should now extend our frontiers of cooperation to space," he said.
Modi said power supply from India to Bangladesh will grow from 500 MW to 1100 MW within two years.
"The 1320 MW Rampal power project is making progress in accordance with your (Bangladeshi) laws and regulation. We can do more together in power sector, here and in India," he added.
Also on Saturday, Adani Power Limited of India and Reliance Power Limited of India signed deals worth over $4.5 billion with state-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) to develop six units of power plants to produce 4,600 MW of electricity.
Reliance will invest $3 billion to produce 3,000 MW power, while Adani will set up two coal-fired plants with a total capacity of 1,600 MW, costing more than $1.5 billion.