Guwahati, Dec. 18: A World Bank study has said closer economic co-operation with Bangladesh by India can reduce economic isolation of the Northeast.
The study — The Unlocking Bangladesh-India Trade: Emerging Potential and the Way Forward — released by the bank yesterday revealed that Bangladesh and India would both gain by opening up their markets to each other.
The primary objective of this study was to analyse the impact on Bangladesh of increased market access in India.
Trade between India and Bangladesh, in particular, faces innumerable barriers, some of which are purely economic in nature and it is because of these barriers, the loss to industry and consumers in general is considerable.
“Bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries could increase Bangladesh’s exports to India by 182 per cent, and that of India’s to Bangladesh by 126 per cent. For India, closer economic co-operation with Bangladesh can be an important stepping-stone to reduce the economic isolation of its northeastern states,” the study said.
It said issues brought up by the commerce-secretary level discussion between both the countries held on March 28 and 29 include cases of port restrictions in both countries.
Not all Indian ports can accept cargoes from Bangladesh. There are also port restrictions imposed by Bangladesh on Indian exports.
For example, port restrictions exist in Bangladesh on export of vulcanised rubber thread via Akhaura land customs station.
Similarly, exports of yarn, milk powder, fish, sugar and potatoes from India (particularly from the northeastern states and West Bengal) face port restrictions in Bangladesh.
India and Bangladesh share almost 4,096.7km international border of which the Northeast comprises Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, shares almost 1,880km border with Bangladesh (wherein 1,434km is land and 446km is riverine tract).
Four states of the Northeast — Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram share international borders with Bangladesh.
Except Meghalaya, rest of the northeastern states share both land and riverine border with Bangladesh, among which Tripura and Mizoram have the longest land and riverine border with Bangladesh respectively.
In fact, of the four northeastern states having international borders with Bangladesh, except Mizoram, the Northeast-Bangladesh trade mainly flows through Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
To facilitate Northeast-Bangladesh border trade in goods and services, the Centre has set-up 26 land customs stations (LCS) along the border through the office of the commissioner of customs in Shillong.
Of these 26 stations, 20 are functional and the rest non-functional.
The Northeast exports raw materials like coal, limestone, stone chips and bamboo to Bangladesh and imports manufactured goods like cement, plastic goods, readymade garments, processed food and drinks.
A Planning Commission document for the Twelfth Plan calls for focus on a strong relationship with Bangladesh to ensure effective connectivity by different transport modes.