NEW DELHI, Oct 9 � With Prime Minister Narendra Modi putting his weight behind the controversial Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh, the Constitution Amendment Bill is only steps away from being cleared for passage during the Winter Session of Parliament.
A crucial meeting of the standing committee on External Affairs Ministry (MEA) on Tuesday decided to invite some of the affected States bordering Bangladesh, including Assam, for yet another round of deliberations within the next 15 days. The official-level meeting would be held between the Ministry of External Affairs and the concerned States to gather fresh inputs, if any, said sources.
The critical question that the Ministry of External Affairs would now have to address relates to the size of the population India has to accept following the exchange of enclaves. Further, whether one State would have to take the entire burden of population or it would be distributed across several States, said sources.
The issue had generated much controversy in Assam, where opposition BJP and AGP had opposed the 119th Constitution Amendment Bill, while Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had supported the LBA. The MPs of the State were briefed by the External Affairs Ministry, while inputs from the State government were also taken into account ahead of introduction of the Bill in Rajya Sabha.
This newspaper had reported last month that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had confirmed that the LBA was on track and political discussions were on.
Sources said that the chairman of the standing committee, Shashi Tharoor (Congress), more or less endorsed the government�s stand at the meeting citing the commitments made by the Prime Minister. Assam is represented by Sirajuddin Ajmal of the AIUDF in the committee, which also has Rahul Gandhi as one of its members.
Tharoor reportedly told the meeting that implementation of the LBA would not only further strengthen India-Bangladesh relations but would constitute a realistic measure to manage the porous border between the two countries.
Sources said that Foreign Secretary, Sujatha Singh, briefed the standing committee in what incidentally was the first meeting of the new parliamentary panel. The Foreign Secretary explained to the members that the Land Boundary Agreement had been signed by the then UPA Government. She held that there could be some issues relating to the exchange of 161 adversely-held enclaves.
Sources said that the Foreign Secretary sought to address the concerns expressed by some members about the controversy over possible loss of Indian territory, particularly in Assam and West Bengal. The hurdles in implementation of the LBA and exchange of enclaves also came up for discussion.
While a few members raised questions relating to the LBA and exchange of enclaves and the Secretary is understood to have assured them that the replies to the questions would be given in about a fortnight, a CPI(M) member reportedly told the meeting that it was necessary to obtain the views of the States to be involved in implementing the LBA.
Accordingly, the meeting unanimously decided to elicit the views of governments in States like West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya, said the sources.
Some BJP members of the standing committee wanted to know about the steps to be taken for rehabilitation of those who want to leave the enclaves in Bangladesh and cross over to enclaves in Assam and West Bengal following the implementation of the LBA. They sought a clear-cut policy for their rehabilitation.
There are 161 Indian enclaves and 92 Bangladeshi enclaves. Inside the main part of Bangladesh, 102 of these are first-order Indian enclaves, while inside the main part of India, 71 of these are Bangladeshi first-order enclaves.