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Greater Bangladesh-Northeast India engagement will be a win-win for both countries

If trade and cultural relations between Bangladesh and Northeast India improve, the picture of the entire region will change.

Kamal Uddin Mazumder Nov 23, 2022
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A delegation led by the Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly Biswajit Daimary called on the Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. A K Abdul Momen in Dhaka (Photo: newsonair.com)

To increase trade and communication between Bangladesh and the northeastern states of India, a 32-member Assam parliamentary delegation came to Bangladesh on November 19, 2022 for a five-day goodwill visit. The delegation is led by Assam Legislative Assembly Speaker Biswajit Daimary. 

At the Akhaura International Immigration Checkpost in Brahmanbaria at the start of the visit, Daimary told the mediapersons that India will stand by Bangladesh in any danger just as it had stood by Bangladesh in the War of Liberation.

Saying that commercial relations between the two countries will be strengthened through the visit, he said that previously people's livelihood in Assam was primarily through agriculture. Now business and entrepreneurship were going to get more prominence. "The youth of Assam will get the commercial benefits from this visit," he declared. 

ASEAN access will improve

The Indian government has been improving Northeast's communication infrastructure as part of its Look East program. In order to boost connectivity and trade with India, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited the seven chief ministers of India's Northeast to visit Bangladesh during her visit to Delhi in September.  
 
Bangladesh has much potential to increase commerce with northeastern India and open up access to the ASEAN nations because both India and Bangladesh have made progress in establishing connectivity with the region through road and rail.

Bangladesh also permits India to transfer commodities between different parts of India by using the Chattogram and Mongla ports, which lowers the cost and speed of shipping.

When the Assamese delegation called on PM Hasina in Dhaka, she told them that the import of fuel oil from India will start through the pipeline next year. The 130 km long India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (IBFPL) project aims to export oil products from India to Bangladesh.

PM Hasina also announced that the border huts between Bangladesh and India, that were closed for Covid, will be reopened.

Sylhet-Silchar festival

 Apart from the delegation's visit, Assam is also planning to have a Sylhet-Silchar festival In an attempt to revive the age-old people-to-people connection of the region, India Foundation proposes to organise the 1st Silchar- Sylhet Festival on December 2-4, 2022 in Silchar, Assam. 

The aim of the festival is to revisit the common values and shared heritage of the twin cities and their people separated by borders. The festival will also bring together eminent people from public and social life, industrialists, artists, scholars, and practitioners from both sides to discuss and deliberate on issues of mutual growth and opportunity. The Festival will also provide a platform to explore multi-disciplinary trade opportunities in sectors such as healthcare, tourism, education, and digital infrastructure. 

It will be attended by the chief ministers of Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya besides several ministers of Bangladesh and India. Members of Parliament and senior officials will also be present. As a result of the festival, the connectivity of Dhaka with the northeastern region of India is expected to increase manifold. 

 Assam, the largest state in the northeastern region of India, shares a 263-km river and land border with Bangladesh. Trade with Bangladesh is very important for both sides considering its size, population and location. If trade and cultural relations between Bangladesh and Northeast India improve, the picture of the entire region will change.

(The author is a security and strategic affairs analyst in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Views are personal. He can be reached at kamalmazumderju@gmail.com)

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