DHAKA — Bangladesh and India are set to sign a deal next week exchanging 162 "enclaves" where pockets of one country's territory are surrounded by the other, a Dhaka official says.
The two sides intend to agree on the swap, which would tackle historic border disputes, during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Dhaka starting on September 6.
"We are trying to address all outstanding border issues and we hope there will be no issues after Singh's visit," Gowher Rizvi, an adviser to Bangladesh's prime minister, told AFP late Monday.
The islands of land result from ownership arrangements made centuries ago by local princes, and have survived both the partition of the sub-continent after British rule ended in 1947 and Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Last month, the countries launched a joint census of the enclaves and found that more than 50,000 people live in the landlocked islands, where they lack many basic services because they are cut off from their national governments.
"Everything will be done according to the will of the people in the enclaves. Nothing will be forced," Rizvi said, adding that enclave residents would be allowed to choose their nationality.
There are no marked borders separating the enclaves from surrounding land, but the movements of those who live in them are often restricted by checkpoints.
Agreements on river water sharing, railway and road transit and importing power from India are also on the agenda for Singh's visit, Rizvi said.
Relations between India and Bangladesh have improved since 2009 when a new Bangladeshi government, led by the secular Awami League party, came to power.
India is also keen to improve ties with its neighbours to balance China's growing regional might.
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