Bangladesh, India open border land ports to boost trade


Dhaka: Bangladesh and India have opened two land ports along the international border to boost bilateral trade and facilitate trading activity of neighbours Nepal and Bhutan.

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The simultaneous openings of the two land ports Saturday followed an understanding reached last year between the neighbours. India said it would also facilitate goods movement through Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Mangla ports.

Soon after India’s Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee opened a land port at Phulbari in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, Bangladesh’s Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury flagged-in a flower-bedecked Indian truck at the Banglabandha land port in Panchagarh, the northernmost district of the country.

The opening of the land ports will help resume communication and movement between the two countries after more than six decades, since India was divided by the British in 1947.

Trade between Nepal and Bangladesh through Banglabandha has been continuing on a limited scale since its introduction in September 1997, The Daily Star reported Sunday.

Banglabandha will be an important land port thanks to broader trade with India, analysts said, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh in January 2010.

Chowdhury said importers and exporters have long been demanding opening of the port for goods transportation in and out of India. “Today their demand is fulfilled.”

Immigration to India and Bangladesh through Banglabandha will start after immigration checkpoints are set up.

“We want to develop the region economically by maintaining a friendly relationship between two countries,” she added, urging India to take steps to reduce the trade gap.

Mukherjee echoed Chowdhury’s statement and said: “We will take steps to shorten the trade gap between Bangladesh and India.”

Banglabandha will shape up into a more important port than other land ports thanks to its geographical importance to both countries, the Indian minister added.

Iqbal Kaiser, president of the Panchagarh Chamber and Commerce and Industry, said the Banglabandha point was the key to developing regional trade. Siliguri is only five km from the port while it is 10 km from Jalpaiguri and 58 km from Darjeeling.

A warehouse, a truck parking yard, a police barrack, a branch of the Sonali Bank and a telephone exchange office have been set up at Banglabandha.

Mukherjee along with a 13-member delegation, including West Bengal Minister of Urban and Municipality Development Ashok Bhattacharya, joined in the inauguration, while Chowdhury led an 11-member team from Bangladesh.