A FULL resolution of land boundary disputes between Bangladesh and India — which were to have already been resolved with an adherence to the 1974 land boundary agreement protocol signed on September 6, 2011 — has so far hinged on India’s not agreeing to the settlement of the long-standing boundary demarcation of Muhurir Char, a two-kilometre land stretch that falls in the River Muhuri running along the international border, ‘along the midstream’ of common rivers as laid out in the 1974 agreement. The dispute could not be settled because of India’s insistence on a fresh survey as India wanted to set the current midstream of the river as the boundary line with the River Muhuri having changed its course inwards Bangladesh, washing away a huge area in Feni, after India erected embankment and spurs on the Indian side. The border management protocol agreed on by both the countries prohibits the erection of such embankments and spurs that could change the course of rivers running along the border. The dispute has now been further compounded as India has put forth a proposal of boundary demarcation ‘along the river bank’ in breach of the principle of the 1974 ‘along the midstream’ demarcation of trans-border rivers.
India in 2016 demanded that Bangladesh should accept the midstream of the river as it existed in 2011 as the demarcation but Bangladesh has wanted the demarcation to be settled keeping to the midstream of the river settled in a 1977–1978 survey, done in line with the 1974 agreement. Now India puts forth the proposal for a demarcation along the bank of the River Muhuri. Such a proposal of India is unacceptable and is what Bangladesh should in no way agree to. This has also made a full resolution of the land boundary demarcation keeping to the 1974 agreement uncertain. Bangladesh earlier raised the issue with India in bilateral talks twice — in Dhaka in 2015 and in New Delhi in 2017. But Bangladesh has so far not received any specific response to the issue in any of subsequent talks. A revised version of the 1974 agreement was, however, ratified on June 15, 2015, by way of which 111 enclaves, adding up to 17,160.63 acres, were transferred from India to Bangladesh while 51 enclaves, adding up to 7,110.02 acres, were transferred from Bangladesh to India by the turn of July 2015. Yet the Muhuri demarcation issue has remained unresolved till date. Border forces of both the countries are also reported to have exchanged gunfire in at least eight incidents in 1979–1999 in Muhurir Char.
India has a history of not resolving prickly issues with Bangladesh, prime among them being the regular holding of meetings of the Joint Rivers Commission, the issue of ending border death and the delay in signing the water sharing agreement on the water of the River Teesta, having already been agreed on, that have cost Bangladesh dearly. Dhaka must not, therefore, agree to Delhi’s proposal for an ‘along the river bank’ demarcation of the River Muhuri and it must stand its ground of having the issue resolved keeping to the 1974 land boundary agreement.
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