India and Bangladesh aim to complete the headcount of people living in 200 enclaves - islands of their territory surrounded by the other country – by May 15, the first step towards swapping pieces of land which lie beyond their official borders.
This is the closest that the two countries have come to resolving the four-decade old border problem. After Bangladesh's liberation in 1971, Delhi and Dhaka had drawn a pact for exchange of these territories but was not able to get around to implementing their pact.
“We are hoping that the agreement to resolve the land dispute will be firmed up over the next few months,” a senior Indian government official said.
India has 111 enclaves within Bangladesh – nearly 70 sq km – where Indian officials will conduct the headcount. Bangladesh has 51 enclaves, comprising nearly 28 sq km, surrounded by Indian territory.
Since the enclave of one country is surrounded by land of the other, neither country is able to deliver basic services to its people who have practically have lived a life of stateless persons.
Under the plan being worked out, government officials said residents of the enclaves on both sides of the border would be given the option to decide which country they want to live in.