National Interest: Dear Narendrabhai

WE need to understand two key issues here. One, what does this agreement entail. And two, why does it represent a strategic opportunity not seen in our neighbourhood since the Simla Agreement (which, you will agree, Indira Gandhi lost in not having the LoC formally sanctified as our border). We are paying for that blunder on our western flanks now. Should we make a similar one on the east? And should India lose out just because Hastinapur maharathis of your party can't be seen to be thinking or working together? And if you fail to count now, what kind of leader are you?

Firstly, what is this agreement. India and Bangladesh (East Pakistan then) inherited a complex border from Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who gave each side enclaves deep inside the other's territory. These involve not much territory, but about 51,000 people. Because of our cussed bilateral relationship, neither side gives easy access to the other to its enclaves. As a result, these territories have become stateless sovereign republics. These are dens of thugs, smugglers, terrorists, gun-runners and illegal immigration mafias. Even jihadi groups and the ISI have routinely used these as staging posts as these are permanent gaps in our border surveillance.

It was only now, with the rise of a friendly, liberal and courageous Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh, that the two countries have signed this historic agreement to exchange these enclaves and rationalise our border. Alongside, we have signed an agreement for joint border management. But that is not possible until the enclaves are sorted out. Effectively, there is no loss of territory for India. The government has held 17 meetings with the opposition leaders to brief them on the agreement, and barring staunch opposition from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), and a qualified one from Mamata Banerjee, the entire Parliament is behind this agreement. That includes the BJP, as confirmed by your party president in many public statements. But so broken is your party's relationship with the Congress (blame for which is shared equally), and so intense the antagonisms within your top brass , that the opportunity is being lost.

... contd.

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