Saturday, January 28, 2012

Now comes India’s reluctance to exchange enclaves

AFTER the blow to the potential of improving the thorny relations between Bangladesh and India by the latter over the signing of an agreement on Teesta water sharing in September last year, now comes another over the exchange of enclaves. Following a series of negotiations over the years, Dhaka and Delhi had agreed to sign the Teesta agreement during Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka on September 6, 2011. 

But after his arrival in Dhaka, Bangladesh came to know that Delhi could not sign the agreement because of West Bengal’s objection to the idea. The government of Sheikh Hasina was embarrassed before the people, while those critical of India’s unfriendly attitude towards Bangladesh found their views further confirmed. 

However, the two neighbours signed some other bilateral agreements, one being a protocol on the exchange of enclaves to end the suffering of the peoples concerned. Notably, more than 50,000 people in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh and 51 enclaves of Bangladesh inside India have been living in immense miseries and uncertainties without any ‘official identity’ since 1947. The protocol was signed in September 2011 after the first-ever headcount of the enclave people jointly by the governments of Bangladesh and India in July that year. Subsequently, the suffering people living in the enclaves have eagerly been waiting for the exchange of the landlocked areas in adverse possessions of the two countries.

But, again, as reported by New Age on Friday quoting Indian media, the Indian government has adopted a ‘go slow’ policy about implementing the ‘ratification of the exchange of enclaves’ on the ground that there has not yet been a ‘national consensus’, particularly with the government’s coalition partner Trinamul Congress  and the rightwing opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The two parties have reportedly been opposing the idea and, therefore, as reports say, the government of India is not enthusiastic about implementation of the accord that it had signed with the ‘friendly’ government of Bangladesh last year, let alone ending the suffering of the poor people living in the enclaves.

No one can blame a foreign government if it refuses to implement an agreement signed with a neighbour in the face of its opposition parties at home. Rather, it is democratically important for any elected government to forge national consensus on issues of national interest. The incumbents in Bangladesh need to learn from their Indian counterparts and consult with the opposition political camps before entering into any important agreement with the foreign countries in general and India in particular.

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