Closing the gap, increasing the gains through Bangladesh-Northeast India connectivity
By: Dr Arpita Hazarika
Two vessels left Kolkata port for Bangladesh on Saturday (July 30, 2022) morning. These vessels will reach Assam and Meghalaya on the Mongla – Tamabil and Mongla – Bibirbazar routes. The implementation of the new water protocol between India and Bangladesh last March was implemented on Saturday. 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, faster. India will only use Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Mongla ports. This will open up new horizons. Through this, the economic relations between the two countries have become stronger.
On the one hand, it will speed up the transportation of goods in the north-eastern region of India, and it will have a positive impact on the economy of both countries. Financially, both countries will benefit.
India-Bangladesh friendly relations will improve with the ease of transportation of goods. The two countries will come closer in terms of trade.
India always appreciates Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress, economic progress, harmony. Bangladesh is successful in many areas including GDP. Bangladesh has become an important partner in the northeastern states of India.
A few days ago, Bangladesh celebrated the golden jubilee of its independence and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu in both countries. The two countries celebrated Friendship Day together in 18 countries of the world. It’s a big deal. This is not possible without excellent bilateral relations. It’s really awesome. Bangladesh has progressed a lot in the last ten years.
The progress of Bangladesh in the last few years is remarkable. Bangladesh has made great progress in terms of economic progress, socio-economic status, democracy etc. Development of GDP, Industrial Base, IT, Service Section of Bangladesh is enviable.
Travel or communication to the seven northeastern states from mainland India is quite difficult. It is not only by air but by land and sea that you have to travel a long way to get there. 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’. On the other hand, Bangladesh is geographically very close to the seven states. This location has become a great opportunity for Bangladeshi businessmen.
Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal – the first three of these seven states or Seven Sisters already have a huge demand for Bangladeshi products. The demand for Bangladeshi products is gradually increasing in the remaining four states as well. If this opportunity is used, a big market for Bangladeshi products can be created in Seven Sisters. The citizens of Bangladesh and the seven states of India will also benefit from the expansion of bilateral trade.
Among the seven states that share borders with Bangladesh are Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya. Among them, Bangladesh has ports with Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya. Basically, the products of Bangladesh enter North-East India through the border of these three states.
According to the information of the Assistant High Commission of Bangladesh in Guwahati, the trade of Bangladesh in the north-eastern region of India is gradually expanding. In the financial year 2019-20, the export of goods from Bangladesh to the region is more than Tk 367 crore. In the previous fiscal year 2018-19, Bangladeshi products were exported there to the tune of Tk 40 crore. On the contrary, in the fiscal year 2019-20, goods imported from Seven Sisters to Bangladesh amounted to Tk 390 crore, in the previous fiscal year 2018-19, more than Tk 472 crore of goods came from there.
It is known that Bangladeshi products are in demand in these states, including ready-made clothes, iron, cement, tin, hilsa, dry food, juice, chips, confectionery items, cotton, plastic footwear, sandals, plastic table, kitchen ware, jamdani. Saree, Raw Jute, Mineral Water, Chana Chur, Sauce, Motor Dal, Ice Cream, Emergency Light, Condensed Milk etc.
On the other hand, coal, ginger, onion, dry chilies, poultry feed, eggs, cloth, sugar, auto parts, various fruits, engineering products, tube light etc. are exported to Bangladesh from the north-eastern region of India. Apart from this, cotton, tea, lime, petroleum products, iron, various stones are produced in Assam, these also have a market in Bangladesh. Manipur produces oil, various seeds, mustard, paddy, wheat, limestone and chromate. And Meghalaya produces glass, porcelain, ore and Arunachal produces corn, wheat, mustard, pulses, apples, oranges, grapes, etc. These products are also in demand in Bangladesh.
Assistant High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Guwahati. Shah Mohammad Tanveer Mansoor said there is a good demand for Bangladeshi products in Northeast India. This region is going to be a big market for the export of package food, cement, plastic and clothing products of Bangladesh in particular. Bangladeshi businessmen are being fully supported in this regard.
He said, we need to improve communication and port management to further expand bilateral trade between the two regions. Recently the high-level visit of Bangladesh (Assam) has increased the confidence and trust among businessmen in this regard.
Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sharma also spoke about the immense potential of bilateral trade.
He said, I think there is a lot of potential in the commercial field between Bangladesh and India’s North-East region. The north-eastern region is connected to the Indian mainland through Bangladesh. There is MoU for supply of diesel from Assam to Bangladesh. There is also an agreement to import goods from Bangladesh here. We are putting more emphasis on developing mutually beneficial economic relations.
In this regard, Himanta Biswa Sharma said, “We will start regular flights on the Dhaka-Guwahati route within the next three months.” Before the corona epidemic, our bus used to go to Dhaka via Gauhati-Shillong-Sylhet. It was closed due to Corona. Now we have got permission from concerned ministry to start it again. Hope the bus service on this route will be started soon. It will make communication easier. Trade will expand further.
He said, we will start regular flights on the Dhaka-Guwahati route within the next three months. Before the corona epidemic, our bus used to go to Dhaka via Gauhati-Shillong-Sylhet. It was closed due to Corona. Now we have got permission from concerned ministry to start it again. Hope the bus service on this route will be started soon.
Himanta Biswa Sharma said, I think there is a lot of potential for developing economic relations between Bangladesh and India’s Northeast region. Thanks to Bangladesh’s waterways, the North-Eastern 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 writer is a Gauhati University, Assam, India-based researcher.