Bangladesh, India settle 68-year-old border issue

Updated: 2015-08-03 07:37

By Associated Press in New Delhi, India(China Daily)

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At the stroke of midnight on Friday, tens of thousands of stateless people who were stranded for decades along the poorly defined India-Bangladesh border will finally get to choose their citizenship, as the two countries swapped more than 150 pockets of land to settle the demarcation line dividing them.

Television images showed people setting off firecrackers and raising an Indian flag in the Masaldanga enclave, which became part of India.

India's External Affairs Ministry in a statement described July 31 as a historic day for both India and Bangladesh as "it marks the resolution of a complex issue that has lingered since independence" from British colonialism in 1947.

Nearly 37,000 people lived in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh, while 14,000 lived in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. The people are getting the citizenship of their choice.

The boundary agreement between the two countries took effect as Friday ended and Saturday began.

Relations between India and its smaller neighbor have significantly improved since Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised that her administration would not allow India's separatist insurgents to use the porous 4,000-kilometer border to carry out raids in India.

Bangladesh, India settle 68-year-old border issue

Aided by India, Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan following a bloody nine-month war in 1971. The boundary dispute has been lingering since British carved Pakistan out of India in 1947 and granted independence to the two countries.

No one from Bangladeshi enclaves within India opted for Bangladesh, while 979 people from Indian enclaves living inside Bangladesh applied for Indian citizenship, said Akhteruzzman Azad, chief government administrator in the Kurigram district of Bangladesh.

The region is 240 kilometers north of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

The shifting of people to the Indian side was expected to be completed by November.

The neighboring countries are implementing the Land Boundary Agreement in line with a deal signed in 1974 and recently approved by India's Parliament.