[International Relations] Indian and Bangladesh Border Disputes (Q&A)

Q. Is Bangladesh in illegal occupation of Indian land?

A. There is no illegal occupation of Indian land by Bangladesh. Since independence, there have been pockets along the India Bangladesh border that have traditionally been under the possession of people of one country in the territory of another country. These are known as Adverse Possessions.
During the visit of the Prime Minister to Bangladesh in September 2011, a Protocol to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh was signed. The Protocol addresses outstanding land boundary issues, including the issue of adverse possessions, between the two countries.

Q. Will signing of the Protocol to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement lead to surrender of Indian land to Bangladesh?

A. The implementation of the Protocol will result in the exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India and preservation of the status quo on territories in adverse possession. In implementing the Protocol, 111 Indian enclaves with a total area of 17,160.63 acres in Bangladesh are to be transferred to Bangladesh, while 51 Bangladesh enclaves with an area of 7,110.02 acres in India are to be transferred to India. Moreover, with the adjustment of adverse possessions in the implementation of the Protocol, India will receive 2777.038 acres of land and transfer 2267.682 acres of land to Bangladesh.

In reality, however the exchange of enclaves and adverse possessions denotes only a notional exchange of land. The actual situation on the ground is that the enclaves are located deep inside the territory of both countries and there has beenno physical access to them from either country. Thus the exchange of enclaves will legalise a situation which already exists de facto. Similarly, in the case of adverse possessions, the reality is that the area to be transferred was already in the possession of Bangladesh and the handing over of this area to Bangladesh and India respectively. The exchange of adverse possessions confirms that each country will legally possess the territories it is already holding.

Q. How was the area of land involved in exchange of Enclaves determined?

A. An agreed list of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India was jointly prepared and signed at the level of Director General, Land Records & Surveys, Bangladesh and Director, Land Records and Survey, West Bengal (India) in April 1997. All Bangladesh enclaves in India are located in the state of West Bengal.

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