India approves bill to settle 1974 border dispute with Bangladesh

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The Indian parliament on Thursday passed a bill which will help it settle a 41-year old border dispute with Bangladesh and allow thousands of people living in “enclaves” being allowed to choose their nationality.

The constitutional amendment bill, which was unanimously approved in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, will operationalise the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary agreement.

The upper house of Indian parliament had approved the bill on Wednesday, ahead of being presented in the lower house.

Under the agreement, which Bangladesh ratified in 1974, the countries will exchange territories in India’s north-eastern states Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and eastern West Bengal.

The agreement would see thousands of people living in “enclaves” being allowed to choose their nationality.

The enclaves, where pockets of one country’s territory are surrounded by the other, are essentially islands of land resulting from ownership arrangements made centuries ago by local princes.

They have survived both the partition of the sub-continent after British rule ended in 1947 and Bangladesh’s 1971 war.

Around 50,000 people are thought to live in the landlocked islands and lack many basic services because they are cut off from their national governments.

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