Bangladesh, India in talks to resume trade thru all land ports

Staff Correspondent | Published: 23:05, May 02,2020


A file photo shows closed gates of Sonamasjid land port in Chapainawabganj. — BSS photo

Bangladesh and India are at present engaged in discussions to resume bilateral trade through all the land ports as trade between the countries have been severely affected due to suspension of export and import activities through the major ports.

International trade through the land ports had been suspended in the last week of March after India imposed a lockdown to check the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bangladesh also imposed a countrywide general holiday on March 26 to stem the deadly outbreak.

Later, trade through the Benapole land port was resumed on Thursday after export of goods began through the Akhaura land port two weeks earlier.

Officials of the Bangladesh Land Port Authority said that the commerce ministry, the National Board of Revenue and traders were continuing discussions with their Indian counterparts to resume the trade activities.

Although the Indian central government has already relaxed the lockdown restrictions, bilateral trade through other ports can not be resumed as state governments are not granting the permission, they said.

Customs, land port and other services are open on the Bangladesh side and there is no restriction in movement of goods-laded vehicles but trade is hampered due to the reluctance shown by the Indian side, they said.

BLPA chairman Tapan Kumar Chakravorty told New Age that discussions were going on to resume trade activities through the other land ports in full swing as export and import were taking place on a limited scale.

Export through Akhaura and import through Benapole have started and hopefully trade through the Bhomra land port will also resume soon, he said.

He also said that trade was also going on with Myanmar through Teknaf.

He, however, was sceptical about the full-scale reopening of the land ports before India lifts its lockdown which has been extended up to May 17.

Somen Kumar Chakma, assistant commissioner of customs land stations at the Burimari land port, said that trade between the two countries came completely to a halt after April 4 when 61 Indian trucks with jute seeds entered into Bangladesh.

The truck drivers were still stranded in Bangladesh as India was not taking back its citizens despite communications through various channels, including at the diplomatic level, he said.

Trade between Bangladesh and Bhutan also remained closed through the port as the West Bengal government declined to provide corridor to Bhutanese vehicles despite the approval given by the central government, he said.

The traders at the Bhomra land port said that customs clearing and forwarding agents of the two countries held a meeting on Friday about the reopening of trade.

Indian CNF agents informed that they were not getting permission from the state government, said a CNF agent at the Bhomra land port.

Trade through Sonamasjid was supposed to resume on April 27 but did not see light due to the reservation of the West Bengal government, the officials said.

Monir Hossain Babul, former secretary of the Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association at the Akhaura Land Port, told New Age that Tripura had started to import goods from Bangladesh on a limited scale through the Akhaura land port two weeks back.

Currently, around 20 to 30 trucks are going to Tripura in comparison to the 80 to 100 trucks that ply the trade route during normal times, he said.

The pace of truck movement is very slow due to the  strict disinfection measures being conducted on the vehicles, he said.

There are now 12 land ports that operate at the borders of Bangladesh, including the ones at Benapole, Akhaura, Bhomra, Banglabandha, Hili, Burimari, Nakugaon and Tamabil.

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