About two weeks ago when the Indian High Commission in Dhaka informally conveyed to the Bangladesh foreign ministry about Delhi’s proposal to keep out Assam from the land boundary agreement, a senior Bangladesh official reminded them what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured counterpart Sheikh Hasina.
“Aap mujh pe bharosa rakhiye (have faith in me)”. This is what Modi, with a historic political mandate under his belt, was said to have told Sheikh Hasina on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September last year. He had made this statement at a closed-door meeting, their first after Modi assumed office, when Hasina asked him about the ratification of the land boundary agreement.
The Bangladesh official was reminding the Indian side of their Prime Minister’s commitment to his counterpart.
For about two weeks, that “faith” dithered as the BJP-led NDA government toyed with the idea of excluding Assam from the purview of its bill on exchanging land with Bangladesh.
But on Tuesday, as the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013, which will allow operationalisation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, was cleared by the Cabinet, including enclaves and “adverse possessions” from West Bengal, Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam, Dhaka heaved a sigh of relief.
At least three Bangladesh officials in Dhaka and New Delhi said they were happy to hear of the development, but were going to watch proceedings this week in the Indian parliament.
“We have been waiting for this moment for almost four years now, after the two countries signed the protocol agreement in September 2011. We don’t want to queer the pitch, since it’s so near and yet so far,” an official in Dhaka said.
Once it is passed in Parliament, the bill will pave the way for ratification of the historic agreement at a formal signing ceremony expected to take place when Modi visits Dhaka, most likely in June.
“There is a strong window of possibility for the visit in June, since our Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) is not travelling that month. But it will all depend on the LBA,” the official said.