Indian PM visits Bangladesh to close land swap deal

DHAKA: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Bangladesh to a red carpet welcome as the two neighbours plan to seal a land pact which will finally allow tens of thousands of people living in border enclaves to choose their nationality after decades of stateless limbo on Saturday.

PM Modi was received at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and a number of her Ministerial colleagues including Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and Agriculture Minister Moti Choudhury.

During his two-day visit to India’s close ally, Narendra Modi is also expected to sign a raft of trade deals and meet Bangladesh’s embattled opposition leader Khaleda Zia.

Under the agreement, the countries will exchange territories in India’s northeastern states of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, and eastern West Bengal.

People living in the enclaves will be allowed to choose to live in India or Bangladesh, with the option of being granted citizenship in the newly designated territories, and the enclaves would effectively cease to exist.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali described the agreement as “a historic milestone in the relationship between the two neighbouring countries”.

Modi has compared the agreement to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall which marks “a watershed moment in our ties with Bangladesh”.