TRADE between Bangladesh and India has run into problems, marking a decline by 79 per cent to $424 million in April–May against about $2 billion that took place in the corresponding period of 2019. Trade volume also declined to $2.9 billion in January–May 2020 against $4.1 billion in the corresponding period of 2019. The problems that have disrupted the trade between Bangladesh and India are reported, as India’s media say, to have stemmed from a decision of the West Bengal government that has stopped letting goods from Bangladesh in India through the Petrapole-Benapole border since March, which suggests that in April-May, only Indian goods entered Bangladesh while goods from Bangladesh have been stopped from entering India. The West Bengal government has stopped letting in Bangladeshi goods through the Benapole border since March 23, a day after Indian authorities ordered lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19. The movement of goods briefly resumed on April 29, but halted again on May 2. Trade began again on June 7, with the volume slowly rising to about 250 trucks a day from about 24 a day, but ‘it was all one-way trade, with only trucks from India going to Bangladesh’, as an Indian media report says.
More than 4,200 trucks carrying Indian goods have entered Bangladesh since June 7 until June 30 while India did admit trucks carrying Bangladeshi goods no entry to India in the past three months, consequent on which Bangladeshi exporters and clearing and forwarding agents on July 1 stopped importing Indian goods through the route in response to India’s unfriendly decision. Even after this, 106 trucks from India were allowed to enter Bangladesh. There has, however, been no problem with Bangladeshi goods entering India through Tripura. Trade through the Petrapole-Benapole border accounts for about 70 per cent of all trade between Bangladesh and India. The Bangladesh Land Port Authority is reported to have requested the Indian authorities to let Bangladesh goods truck in India, but there has so far been no progress in this regard. A situation like this does not only inconvenience trade — which is highly tilted in favour of India with the volume having stood at $8.9 billion in the 2018–2019 financial year, only $1.25 billion of which was in export of goods from Bangladesh to India — leaving Bangladesh to be further mired in trade imbalance, but also creates a negative impact on other aspects of bilateral ties, calling out both the authorities on resolving the problem at the earliest.
Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port authorities, meanwhile, on July 3 said that the port would facilitate Bangladesh-India trade by opening a new service between the Kolkata Dock System and Chattogram under the Bangladesh-India Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade. India’s saying this harks back to New Delhi’s seeking in April 2017 to use dedicated spaces in Chattogram and Mongla ports to carry goods from one part of India to another which Dhaka should not agree to. While Dhaka should keep this issue in mind, it must also take up the trade trouble at hand boldly with Delhi to resolve the Petrapole-Benapole issues in earnest.
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