Assam, Meghalaya keen to boost trade ties with Bangladesh

Gautam Lahiri, New Delhi

26 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

As Bangladesh is graduating to a developing nation, India’s two states bordered with Bangladesh look for greater trade cooperation with Dhaka in the coming days.

The governments of Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya, the ruling party BJP allies, have expressed their willingness to expand trade with Bangladesh as Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Muhammad Imran met heads of the state governments.

The high commissioner met the heads of Assam and Meghalaya on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

Meanwhile, a new cross-border rail link between Dhaka and Siliguri is expected to be opened by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during the latter’s visit to Dhaka on March 26.

Passengers from Dhaka can travel upto the northeastern states of India easily when the train service begins. 

Deputy Chief Minister of Indian State of Meghalaya Prestone Tynsong has highly appreciated Bangladesh’s leadership for achieving tremendous progress in various sectors and laid emphasis on further increasing bilateral trade for the betterment of the two peoples.

In this context, he proposed setting up new “Border Hat” and land tariff station along the Bangladesh-Meghalaya international border lines aimed at further expansion of the bilateral trade.

He made the proposal when Muhammad Imran paid a courtesy call on him, according to a press release received from Shillong issued by Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi.

The High Commissioner paid the courtesy call on the Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya at the latter’s office.

Bangladesh Assistant High Commissioner in Guwahati and first secretary to Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi were present at the meeting.

Bangladesh High Commissioner saw for himself various activities of Dawki-Tamabil land tariff station on Wednesday.

Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi reportedly told the High Commissioner that “the volume of bilateral trade through land routes should attain the maximum potentials.”

Sources concerned said Imran talked about a gamut of issues related to bilateral interests.

The Governor of Assam, who is the head of the state, suggested a free trade agreement with Bangladesh in line with India–Sri Lanka free trade agreement.

As a least-developed country, Bangladesh enjoys duty-free access for its goods to the Indian market.

Bangladesh is expected to be declared soon a “developing country” and when declared a new framework of trade agreement will be required.

Both the state governments are in discussion on a draft agreement, sources said, adding that commerce secretaries of both countries will soon meet in Dhaka to finalise the draft on free trade deal.

Assam Governor has suggested that the commodities currently allowed for exports are restricted to a specific list, namely the positive list.

He was of the opinion that the ambit of this positive list should be expanded to boost the trade growth.

"Both the countries should be able to trade the items freely, thereby enhancing the exports and imports as per capability and requirement," he said. The Governor anticipated that the recent agreements with Bangladesh for allowing the use of ports by the vessels from the northeast would create an atmosphere to enhance trade for mutual benefit.

Formal agreement on this is likely to be signed during Modi's visit to Bangladesh, the sources said.

High Commissioner assured the Governor of taking the issues to Bangladesh government policy level to expedite the proceedings.

Muhammad Imran also met Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik and Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong and discussed enhancing trade relations with Bangladesh.

Both of them are expecting a path-breaking agreement to be signed during Indian PM’s visit to Dhaka for mutual benefit.