The India-Bangladesh Exclaves

The India-Bangladesh Exclaves

Our "Oddities" Series takes us to South Asia.

The border between India and Bangladesh was, for a long time, one of the most complex in the World. The legend is that two pashas were playing chess and betting their lands, which led to hundreds of parcels becoming enclaves within each other's territory. By the time the British took control of India, the border between various districts contained hundreds of enclaves, including close to 30 enclaves within enclaves.

The partition of British India into two nations made the situation very complex. Some of the districts fell under India's jurisdiction while others were under Pakistan's jurisdiction. As the parties were in conflict and none would relinquish sovereignty, tens of thousands of residents of these enclaves became trapped, since they could not legally cross the border, and if they were caught on enemy territory, they were expelled to the mainland and could not return home.

Bangladesh became an independent nation in 1971. While the relations between India and Bangladesh were not nearly as conflictual as with Pakistan, it would take until 2015 to sign and ratify a treaty that put an end to the situation. Under the agreement, except for the large Bangladeshi enclave of Dahagram–Angarpota, all enclaves were transfered and the population was offered a choice between relocation or change of citizenship. While decried by opposition parties in India, the transfer occurred without major incident.

More on India and Bangladesh.