Saturday, January 01, 2022

Enclaves within enclaves within enclaves on the India-Bangladeshi border

I watched a short video blog the other night that touched on the subject of enclaves on the India-Bangladesh border. I found it fascinating, and so I investigated further.

When India was partitioned by the British in 1947, they had to deal with a series of confusing territorial problems particularly along the border with East Pakistan (later to be known as Bangladesh), some of which dated back centuries as local rajas and maharajas fought each other and parcelled out their territories. A border of sorts was established by the terms of the British partition, but everyone knew that it was full of holes and disputed regions. 

The result was that East Pakistan/Bangladesh included some 102 enclaves of Indian territory, and in turn India included 71 Bangladeshi enclaves. Most of these enclaves were completely cut off from the rest of their respective countries. But it was not even as simple as that: within the 102 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh were 21 Bangladeshi enclaves (or "counter enclaves"), and within the 71 Bangladeshi enclaves in India were 3 Indian counter-enclaves. 

And you might not believe it, but there was even a third-level counter-counter-enclave, a piece of Indian land within a Bagladeshi counter-enclave in an Indian enclave in Bangladesh. This territory, known as Dahala Khagrabari, was only about 7,000 square metres (1.7 acres) in size and basically consisted of a jute field, but it was the only known third-level enclave in the world. What a bizarre state of affairs!

It seems almost a shame that, in 1974, the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh agreed to exchange enclaves and simplify their joint border. The Land Boundary Agreement took until 2015 to fully implement, but almost all of the Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves were exchanged and rationalised. This left only one Bangladeshi enclave in India, Dahagram-Angarpota, which remains the last of the hundreds of enclaves that once existed along the border. It is connected to the rest of Bangladesh by a very narrow corridor that is open almost all day.

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