Increasing gains seen through greater Bangladesh-Northeast India connectivity
Bangladesh's Assistant High Commissioner in Guwahati. Shah Mohammad Tanveer Mansoor, feels there is a good demand for Bangladeshi products in northeast India
Two vessels left Kolkata port for Bangladesh on July 30. They will reach Assam and Meghalaya on the Mongla-Tamabil and Mongla-Bibirbazar routes. This is part of a new water protocol between India and Bangladesh signed in March.
The project had been in talks since 1980. The new system will enable goods to be transported to India's northeastern states at a much lower cost and faster. India will only use Bangladesh's Chittagong and Mongla ports. This will open up new horizons. Through this, the economic ties between the two countries have become stronger.
Bangladesh has become an important partner in the northeastern states of India.
Travel or communication to the seven northeastern states from mainland India is quite difficult. That is why it is very expensive and difficult for Indian traders to bring goods from the mainland to the states known as the 'Seven Sisters'. But Bangladesh is geographically very close to the seven states. Its location has become a great opportunity for Bangladeshi businessmen.
Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal: the first three of these seven northeastern Indian states have a huge demand for Bangladeshi products. The demand is gradually rising in the remaining states as well. If this opportunity is used, a big market for Bangladeshi products can be created in the region.
The people of Bangladesh and India’s Northeast will benefit from the expansion of bilateral trade. Bangladesh has ports with Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya. Basically, the products of Bangladesh enter northeastern India through the border of these three states.
According to the Assistant High Commission of Bangladesh in Guwahati, Shah Mohammad Tanveer Mansoor, Dhaka’s trade with the northeastern region of India is gradually expanding.
In 2019-20, exports from Bangladesh to the region was more than taka 367 crores. In the previous fiscal, it was worth taka 40 crore. In 2019-20, goods imported from India’s northeast to Bangladesh amounted to take 390 crores, a jump from taka 472 crores the previous year.
Bangladeshi products in demand in these states include readymade clothes, iron, cement, tin, hilsa, dry food, juice, chips, confectionery items, cotton, plastic footwear, sandals, plastic table, kitchen ware, jamdani. raw jute, mineral water, chana chur, sauce, motor dal, ice cream, emergency light and condensed milk.
Exports to Bangladesh include coal, ginger, onion, dry chilies, poultry feed, eggs, cloth, sugar, auto parts, fruits, engineering products and tube light. Apart from this, cotton, tea, lime, petroleum products, iron and various stones produced in Assam also command a market in Bangladesh. Ditto for Manipur oil, various seeds, mustard, paddy, wheat, limestone and chromate as well as Meghalaya’s glass, porcelain, ore. Arunachal sends corn, wheat, mustard, pulses and fruits.
Bangladeshi diplomat Mansoor said there was a good demand for products from his country in northeast India. This region is going to be a big market for package food, cement, plastic and clothing products of Bangladesh in particular. He said there was a need to improve communication and port management to further expand bilateral trade.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma also spoke about the immense potential of bilateral trade. “There is a lot of potential in the commercial field between Bangladesh and India's northeast. There is MoU for supply of diesel from Assam to Bangladesh. We are putting emphasis on developing mutually beneficial economic relations.”
The chief minister also said regular Dhaka-Guwahati flights will start within three months. The bus service to Dhaka via Gauhati-Shillong-Sylhet was closed due to Covid-19. Now the service will resume.
Sharma added: “Thanks to Bangladesh's waterways, the northeastern region has been connected to the Indian mainland. There is also an agreement to import goods from Bangladesh (into Assam). We are putting more emphasis on developing mutually beneficial economic relations.”
(The author is a Gauhati University, India, based researcher. Views are personal. She can be contacted at email@example.com)
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