GUWAHATI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said India would go ahead with its land swap deal with Bangladesh for a permanent solution to deal with the problem of infiltration.
Addressing BJP workers at a rally at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here, Modi sought to allay the fear of the people of Assam saying the deal would benefit the State in the long run. “I know the people’s sentiment in Assam on the deal. But let me assert that we will advance keeping in mind the interest of Assam and the country. Whatever we do, it may appear to be an immediate loss for Assam but ultimately the State will benefit in the long term even if it looks like losing in the short term,” the PM said. “Have faith in me. There will be no compromise on Assam’s security. We will always protect the interests of Assam and the country,” he said.
Once ratified, the agreement would lead to transfer of enclaves which lie in each other’s territories. India has 111 enclaves or around 17,000 acres of land in Bangladesh, while the neighbouring country has 51 enclaves or around 7,000 acres within India. The fear among people is over losing about 10,000 acres of land.
Ironically, the BJP had opposed the deal ahead of this year’s Lok Sabha elections leaving Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi livid. He had alleged that the BJP opposed the deal with an eye on the polls.
The enclaves in contention have existed since 1947. India and Bangladesh signed an agreement for exchange of the enclaves following Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971. But the exchange could not take place due to non-ratification of the pact by Parliament. As a result, they continue to remain disputed.
The enclaves are sparsely populated and lack better amenities, services and policing among others. Both India and Bangladesh believe that once the exchange of land takes place, it will de-escalate conflict on the border leading to an improvement in bilateral ties.
In his address, Modi expressed concern on the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh and said the Centre would do all that was required to stop the influx.
“I am aware of the situation in Assam. Let me pledge that we will not compromise on its security. I’ll block all the roads that the illegal Bangladeshi migrants use to infiltrate into Assam,” he said.
The PM asserted that anti-national activities in the Northeast would not be tolerated any more and said the divisive forces might have got away earlier but now law would not allow them to go scot-free.