The Assam Chronicle

News and Views from Northeast India

Meghalaya-Bangla Cooperation

A major breakthrough was achieved during the September 6-7, 2011 Indo-Bangladesh Bilateral Summit in settling 240.58 acres of disputed territory along the Meghalaya-Bangladesh borders. Sangma who was present in Dhaka at the time of signing of the border protocol, remarked that a ‘’seemingly intractable problem’’ was resolved. He later stated in the Assembly that in terms of land, Meghalaya had gained 240.58 acres of land and ceded 41.70 acres to Bangladesh. Along the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border, there exists 12 areas of disputes, namely—Pyrdiwah, Lyngkhat I, II and III, Kurinallah, Tamabil, Naljuri I and II, Rongkhong, Amjalong, Amki and Muktapur. Bangladesh claims that all these areas are under the adverse possession of India. Media reports suggest that out of 12 disputed areas, joint survey was carried out in seven areas-- Lyngkhat I, II and III, Pyrdiwah, Tamabil and Naljuri I and II. Under the recently signed border protocol, all these areas would be retained by India. However, India which earlier claimed Lobocherra would now be retained by Bangladesh. It may be recalled that the two neighbouring countries fought over Pyrwidah following Bangladeshi security forces’ intrusion and forcible possession of this area in April 2001 for about five days claiming to be its territory which had been in India’s possession for the last forty years. The Bangladesh forces finally withdrew from Pyrdiwah only after India put pressure through diplomatic means and a flag meeting of the two countrys’ border forces was held.

Both the countries need to demonstrate such political will to resolve the problems of illegal migration, cross-border terrorism, smuggling and other criminal activities. Continuous illegal migration from Bangladesh is a major threat faced by Meghalaya. The state government claimed that in the last five years untill September 2013, 18,951 Bangladeshis were "detected" in the state. Among them, 978 had been "prosecuted" and the rest were pushed back into Bangladesh. According to a Meghalaya government official, the key factor responsible for the influx of Bangladeshi nationals is high demand of cheap labour in coal mining areas of Jaintia Hills district and manual jobs.

Cross-border teroorism is another major issue in Indo- Bangladesh relations. Though the manace has been contained to an extent following Sheikh Hasina's assumption of power, the North Eastern militants continue to exploit the porous segments of the international borders and maintain some bases in Bangladesh. The BSF had submitted a list of 66 such camps to the Border Guard Bangladesh, seeking action against them. The list was handed over at the three-day bi-annual inspector general level meeting of border management and coordination held from March 6, 2014 at the headquarters of Meghalaya Frontier of the BSF. The list included state's Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council and A'chik National Volunteers' Council-Breakaway. The border forces of both the countries also discussed several issues including better border management, tackling smuggling of contraband items and reducing border crimes and dacoities.

Periodic border skirmishes between the security forces of the two countries resulting from enclaves and adversely held areas became an irritant in Indo--Bangladesh relations and caused innumerable difficulties for the people living along the international borders. Now that the long standing border disputes have been resolved amicably, it is hoped that the people can live peacefully in the bordering areas. It is also anticipated that improved bilateral relations would boost trade, commerce and tourism between the two countries.

By Dr. Rupak Bhattacharjee