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India, Bangladesh to develop border infrastructure


Agartala : New Delhi and Dhaka would develop infrastructure along the border and simplify trade barriers to boost business between Bangladesh and northeast India, officials said here Thursday.

The two neighbours would upgrade existing infrastructural facilities of 27 Land Customs Stations (LCS) in four northeastern states of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram – which share a 1,879-km border with Bangladesh.

Assistant commissioner of Customs S.K. Roy told IANS: “Improvement of infrastructural facilities of 27 LCS along Indo-Bangla border is very essential to boost trade, business and numerous economic activities between Bangladesh and northeast India.”

The fifth commissioner level co-ordination meeting of India-Bangladesh customs officials was held here Tuesday to review and take urgent steps to expand infrastructural facilities along the border.

The six-member Indian delegation was led by S.R. Baruah, custom commissioner in-charge of northeast region, while Mohammad Enayet Hossain, customs and excise commissioner of Dhaka headed the seven-member Bangladesh team.

“Both the sides have agreed to remove the local problems hampering the full-swing of the bilateral trade between northeast India and Bangladesh,” Baruah told reporters.

“We have sorted out many obstacles, agreed to develop infrastructure and some of the problems would be resolved in the commissioner level meeting in Dhaka in February next year.”

The existing border trade problems include delayed clearance of perishable exports goods, entry of trucks into either side of the border, lack of facilities for parking of trucks and loading and unloading arrangements and pre-shipment inspection.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has identified seven check posts along the border in West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura for setting up Integrated Check Posts (ICPs).

“Under the ICP scheme, infrastructure and communication facilities will be developed at these check posts to boost trade between the two countries,” a central government official said.

Bangladeshi manufacturers started to export bricks to northeast India from last week, a new item on the export basket. Initially Bangladesh will export 400 million bricks worth Bangladeshi Taka 2.8 billion to Tripura.

“To boost the brick trade, the Indian government has removed the 2.5 percent central custom duty from this month while the Tripura government reduced the value-added tax (VAT) to 4 percent from 12.5 percent,” said Tripura Commerce and Industry Minister Jitendra Chowdhury.

After flagging off the first consignment of bricks from Bangladesh to northeastern India, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Colonel (retired) Faruk Khan said: “We have decided to increase trade and business with the northeastern region to reduce Bangladesh’s trade gap with India.”

“Bangladesh planning commission would soon approve the Taka 116 crore ($16.8 million) project to develop the road and other border infrastructure along Akhaurah land port with India’s Tripura state,” Khan told reporters at Akhaurah, 5 km west of Tripura capital Agartala.

“There is a big opportunity for Bangladesh to tap the trans-shipment business between India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal,” said India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI) president Abdul Matlub Ahmad, who led a team here.

Ahmed told newsmen : “A recent study shows that Bangladesh may gain up to 1.2 billon US dollars or over 8,400 crore Taka through this logistical support.”

“We are targeting exports worth $1 billion to northeast India by 2011 to close the trade gap with New Delhi,” he added.