Tag Archives: schizophrenia

An Apology of Enclaves – NYTimes.com

An Apology of Enclaves – NYTimes.com.

Obscure examples, and the concomitant thrill of discovery, are part of the attraction of scouting for border anomalies, a few of which Simon suggested: “Haven’t seen much in the literary record on the Malaysian railway in Singapore … used to be Malaysian territory once you got on the train.” He likewise suggested “the little back door leading into Guantánamo Bay solely for the Cuban pensions officer.”`

My own favorite obscure border anomalies include the Drummully Polyp, a pene-enclave [2] on the intra-Irish border, and the omelet-shaped enclave complex of Madha and Nahwa — Madha being a small Omani enclave inside the United Arab Emirates, and Nahwa in turn a tiny emirates enclave inside Madha [3]. And there are plenty of river/border asynchronicities [4] around the world to get excited about.


Baarle and Cooch Behar have often been mentioned in the same breath, but have hardly ever been compared. Beyond the obvious formal similarities and practical differences, both complexes share a few surprising traits, and are marked by at least one glaring divergence.

Cooch Behar is often called the world’s most complex enclave complex, with Baarle a close second. But both have totally different outcomes on the ground. Baarle is a best-case scenario: a money-spinning tourist attraction; Cooch Behar a worst-case scenario: a continuing source of poverty and misery for the locals.

Before we attempt to find a moral in that story, let’s find a definition for the main ingredient on either map: those geopolitical islands stranded inside another territory. The most common term is “enclave”; a related, seemingly opposite one is “exclave.” Both are often used interchangeably, and indeed, enclaves often are also exclaves. In spite of that overlap in practice, in theory they are each other’s semantic opposites. Prepare to have your mind slightly boggled.

An enclave is a piece of sovereign territory (that may or may not be part of country X), wholly enclosed by country Y. For example, the Vatican is an enclave within Italy, even though it is not the dependence of a third country. Yet Monaco is not an enclave within France, because it also borders the sea.

An exclave is a piece of sovereign territory that is separated from its “mainland” (country X), possibly but not necessarily by country Y. So Lesotho, entirely surrounded by South Africa, is not an exclave, because it is sovereign and does not “belong” to a third country. But Llivia, a Spanish village north of the Pyrennees, is an exclave of Spain (as well as being an enclave within France). Ceuta and Melilla, tiny Spanish territories on the Moroccan coast, are exclaves of Spain, even though they sit on the Mediterranean Sea.

So even if both definitions sound similar, their point of view is opposite: enclaves imply total encirclement by country Y, exclaves imply non-contiguity with country X.


Baarle, on the Dutch side of the border with Belgium, is a Siamese twin of a town, one part Belgian and one part Dutch. Each part has its own mayor, town administration and police force, each is beholden to a different set of national laws. The Belgian part, called Baarle-Hertog, is a collection of 26 separate parcels, four of which are on the Belgian-Dutch border (therefore technically not ’claves) and 22 within Baarle-Nassau, the Dutch part of town [5]. The largest of those Belgian ’claves contains six Dutch ones, with a seventh one ensconced in the second largest Belgian ’clave. These Dutch ’claves within Belgian ’claves are called “counterenclaves” [6]. An eighth Dutch territorial splinter is located within Zondereigen, the largest of Baarle-Hertog’s 26 parcels and one of the four on the Belgian-Dutch border. As this is not a Belgian ’clave, the Dutch splinter it contains is not a counterenclave, merely an enclave (within Belgium), but also an exclave (of the Netherlands).

Whereas Baarle mainly consists of Belgian enclaves within the Netherlands, the Cooch Behar complex is more evenhanded — except in its name. “Cooch Behar” describes only one half of the equation: the former Indian principality that now is a district in the Indian State of West Bengal. That district possesses 106 enclaves in Bangladesh, but conversely, Bangladesh has 92 enclaves in that part of India. To muddy the waters, Bangladesh has 21 counterenclaves (i.e. located within Indian exclaves inside Bangladesh). India has three of those, and a single counter-counterenclave (i.e. Indian territory, located within one of Bangladesh’s counterenclaves).

The Baarle complex is dwarfed by Cooch Behar, which is the world’s largest archipelago of ’claves. Baarle-Hertog’s assorted bits of land total just under three square miles, and have a mere 2,500 inhabitants [7]. Both Baarles form a compact whole. Cooch Behar, on the other hand, is an approximately 200-mile-long confused concatenation of ’claves, the combined area of which is 37 square miles with a combined population of around 70,000.

Remarkably, both complexes’ territorial splinters have similar origins, in what were essentially self-sufficient agricultural units. As was standard in pre-modern times, even neighboring and interdependent farms and estates often owed allegiance to different overlords. In the case of both Baarle and Cooch Behar, these allegiances hardened over centuries, as local lords were succeeded by national governments. The Baarle split in its earliest form dates from the 15th century, when the Duke of Brabant competed with the counts of Breda for local loyalty. Cooch Behar finds its origin in the motley border drawn up in the 18th century, between the local principality and the advancing Mogul Empire.


That some survive, and resplendently so in the cases of Baarle and Cooch Behar, is a testament to a combination of factors: international unwillingness, administrative inertia, local pride, and the ’claves’ general inobtrusiveness to the affairs of state.


In Baarle, the peculiarities of the border are now part of the local folklore. For example, as taxes are paid in the country where the front door is situated, houses on the border would move their main entrance in accordance to the country where taxes were, for the moment, more advantageous. House numbers are marked in the respective national colors, and a line marking the border heightens the tourist appeal of Baarle’s town center. And shops and restaurants on the border will have different closing times, serving rules and/or sales periods on either side of the line, with interesting consequences for their customers.


In contrast, in Cooch Behar, the grim imposition of borders on daily life is still a regular occurrence. Inhabitants of the enclaves are caught in a classic Catch-22: They are unable to obtain a visa, as this would require them to go to the “mainland,” which is impossible without a visa. For these people, leaving their ’claves constitutes an illegal border crossing. Adding to a general sense of despair is a criminal element, which has learned to exploit the legal limbo of the ’claves to find a safe haven.


There’d be plenty of interesting things to see. Like Upan Chowki Bhaini (Bangladesh), at 570 square feet, the size of a large living room, the world’s smallest international enclave. Or Dahala Khagrabari (India), the world’s only international counter-counterenclave [9]. Or the quadripoint, reputedly near the Patgram police station, where four international borders (two for each country) meet (Baarle has a similar quadripoint).