With a focus on improving connectivity further with Dhaka, India is looking to increase the number of integrated check posts (ICP) along the Bangladesh border to boost trade and movement of people.
At present, there are six ICPs along the Indian border but only two are on the India-Bangladesh border.
However, one which is already under construction in Dawki in Meghalaya and and Sutarkandi in Assam are nearing completion. The ICPs are critical for effective border management while facilitating trade and people’s movement.
Connectivity and trade will be high on the agenda during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka later in the month.
“Efficient border checkpoints are crucial for promoting regional trade, an area in which South Asia is lagging. Inadequate infrastructure at border checkpoints is one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of trade, as it hinders the movement of both goods and people in and out of neighbouring countries. Currently, South Asia’s intra-regional trade is a mere five percent of the region’s total global trade,” a report by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said.
The Petrapole-Benapole Integrated Check Post (ICP) near Kolkata in West Bengal and the Agartala-Akhaura (Bangladesh) ICP in Tripura are the two main points of trading points between India and Bangladesh, through which cross-border movement of both people and goods takes place. Trade worth about Rs 4-6 crore takes place every day at each of the ICPs. About 100 trucks carrying goods ply from each of these two ICPs daily.
The frequency of ‘border haats’ will also be increased for better facilitation of people to people contact on a local level, two persons familiar with the development said.
While countries within the European Union have managed to free up internal trade from cumbersome mechanisms and paperwork, the South Asian countries with similar cultural commonalities have not been able to work on thrashing out easier ways to boost trade and movement of people.
Besides sharing strong cultural commonalities, India and Bangladesh are also strong trading partners in the region. Bilateral trade between the two neighbours is over $ 10 billion.
The ORF report also noted that Bangladesh is one of the largest contributors to India’s tourism industry. The Indian High Commission in Bangladesh issues more than one million visas annually, amongst the highest numbers issued by Indian missions globally, it said, adding that most of these are tourist visas, and the majority of these visitors enter India through the land border.
“Strong India-Bangladesh relations is critical for the overall development of the region. Improved trade between the two neighbours is an absolute must,” Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, Senior Fellow, ORF, who has authored the report told India Narrative.
Analysts also said that Modi’s visit to Bangladesh—the first foreign trip post the Covid 19 era—holds immense significance and goes on to pass an important message that India will strictly adhere to its Neighbours’ First dictum.