India and Bangladesh are considering upgrading infrastructure at border trading points as well as expanding their ‘Border Haats’ (markets) among the several measures to boost bilateral trade and investment.
According to a Commerce Ministry statement on Monday, “The two sides held extensive and productive discussions (on February 7 and 8 at commerce secretary-level) … including (on) development and up-gradation of infrastructure at border trading points, further expansion of the Border Haats of the two countries, identification and resolution of non-tariff issues affecting bilateral trade, regional connectivity under BBIN MVA (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement) and ease of investment.”
Also on the cards are cooperation in export promotion and capacity building on trade related matters. Commerce secretaries of both sides also discussed the establishment of an institutional B2B (business-to-business) mechanism to provide policy level inputs on trade and investment, the statement said.
In December 2017, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during a meeting with the Chief Ministers of the Indo-Bangladesh Border states, had said India has friendly relations with Bangladesh, and measures will be taken to facilitate genuine trade and legitimate cross-border movement of people, while curbing radicalisation, illegal migration, and smuggling of cattle, fake Indian currency notes and drugs. The Indo-Bangladesh border — covering five states of India including Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and West Bengal — is 4096 km long, according to a home ministry statement.
Stating that setting up of Border Haats is one of the methods for facilitating and increasing border trade across neighbouring countries, the commerce ministry had in August 2017 said, “Currently four Border Haats are operational along India-Bangladesh border — two in Meghalaya at Kalaichar and Balat and two in Tripura at Srinagar and Kamalasagar.” In addition to the four functional Border Haats, India and Bangladesh have agreed to set up six more border haats — two in Tripura and four in Meghalaya, it said.
According to a December, 2017 discussion paper by CUTS International, “there is a strong case for promoting trade in agricultural commodities between Bangladesh and Tripura, India, given the gains that can accrue in terms of better availability and lower price to the end consumers in Tripura.” In addition, there are possibilities of benefits via formalising of informal trade that thrives in absence of a formal channel and framework for flow of such commodities across borders, it said. India-Bangladesh trade had grown by 11.23% in 2016-17 to $7.5 billion, with India’s exports to that country increasing by 13% to $6.8 billion while Bangladesh’s exports to India shrinking (-)3.5% to $701.68 million.