Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and India fell by around 79 per cent to only $424 million in April-May this year from nearly $2 billion in the same period of 2019.
Trade between the two neighbouring countries has been significantly affected during the period due to the policy taken by the West Bengal government, according a report of the Times of India.
Trade volume between the countries also dropped to $2.9 billion in January-May of 2020 from that of $4.1 billion in the corresponding period of 2019.
West Bengal is proving to be a major obstacle to India’s neighbourhood policy, the report said.
‘A decision by the Mamata Banerjee government to stop all goods from Bangladesh through the Petrapole-Benapole border since March has resulted in serious damage to bilateral trade and it came to a head on Wednesday with Bangladesh refusing to allow Indian trucks to cross the border,’ it said.
Bangladeshi exporters and clearing and forwarding agents also stopped importing goods from India through the route since Wednesday in response to India’s decision not to take any products from Bangladesh in the last three months.
Although import from India resumed on June 7 and more than 4,200 trucks carrying Indian goods had entered Bangladesh until June 30, India did not allow entry to Bangladeshi goods-carrying trucks during the period, according to exporters, C&F agents and customs officials at the Benapole Customs House.
Bangladeshi traders, government officials, including foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, have their expressed dissatisfaction over the matter and urged the Indian authorities to resolve the standstill in bilateral trade.
The Bangladesh Land Port Authority also repeatedly requested the Indian side to allow Bangladeshi goods-laden trucks into India but there has been no progress so far.
Exporters are facing losses due to India’s reluctance to receive Bangladeshi goods while trade imbalance, which is now highly in favour of India, is rising due to the crisis.
The trade volume was $8.9 billion in the fiscal year 2018-2019. Of this, Bangladesh exported goods worth only $1.25 billion.
According to ToI, Bangladeshi traders and the government have been expressing unhappiness for sometime, which spilled over on July 1 leading to Bangladesh stopping Indian trucks from entering the country.
Even so, sources said, 106 trucks had been let through into Bangladesh.
No exports from Bangladesh have been allowed to come via PetrapoleBenapole since March 23, the day before the lockdown was imposed.
It briefly resumed on April 29, but shut down again on May 2, following some local protests at Petrapole.
Trade commenced again on June 7 and the volume slowly rose to around 250 trucks per day from around 24 a day.
‘But it was all one-way trade with only trucks from India going to Bangladesh but nothing being allowed to come from the other side,’ the report said.
There has been, however, no stoppage of goods from Bangladesh via Tripura, but only through Petrapole-Benapole which accounts for about 70 per cent of the trade between Bangladesh and India.
Faced with a serious disruption in trade which could have a negative impact on other aspects of bilateral ties, the Indian central government is looking for other options to bypass the Petrapole-Benapole ICP.
For the first time, goods have also been moving through the revived India-Bangladesh rail network.
On Friday, the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Kolkata announced that it would serve Indo-Bangla trade by introducing a new service between the
Kolkata Dock System and Chattogram (Chittagong) through the IndoBangladesh Protocol Route, the report said.
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