India keen to boost trade with Bangladesh, Myanmar: Sitharaman

Srinagar: The Indian government has been building infrastructure to boost trade and other economic activities with Bangladesh and Myanmar, union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said here Tuesday.

“India is setting up international-standard multi-purpose ICPs (integrated check posts) along its borders with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan to increase trade and business with the neighbouring countries,” Sitharaman told reporters in Agartala.

“Border haats (markets) are also being set up along the India-Bangladesh border to increase trade of local produce of both the nations.”

The minister, accompanied by officials, Tuesday visited the ICP in Agartala on the Bangladesh border.

With all kind of facilities, the Agartala ICP was built at a cost of Rs.74 crore.

This is India’s second international-standard ICP and the first along the Bangladesh border. It was inaugurated by former home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde Nov 17 last year.

The first such ICP was inaugurated in Attari in Punjab along the Pakistan border by then home minister P. Chidambaram in April 2012.

Sitharaman said two more ICPs would be set up along Manipur’s border with Mynmar.

“Northeast India would be the threshold of all activities of the central government and the DoNER (Development of Northeast Region) ministry. The Indian government is attaching high priority towards the development of the northeast,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Sitharaman accompanied by her Bangladeshi counterpart Tofail Ahmed and Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar jointly inaugurated a “border haat” in southern Tripura’s Srinagar – about 140 km south of state capital Agartala.

This was Tripura’s first and the third such market along the Bangladesh border.

Two border haats were set up in 2012 on the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border – at Kalaichar (India)-Baliamari (Bangladesh) and at Dalora (Bangladesh)-Balat (India).

In her speech at the inaugural function, Sitharaman said India was keen on further strengthening economic relations with Bangladesh.

“India seriously wants to further reinforce trade and economy and people-to-people relations and all other mutual issues with Bangladesh,” Sitharaman said.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already announced to convert the ‘Look East Policy’ to ‘Act East Policy’ for better relations and further allround development of the northeastern region after closely connecting the region with the Southeast Asian countries.”

Tripura Industry and Commerce Minister Tapan Chakraborty, Lok Sabha member Jitendra Chowdhury and Indian and Bangladeshi officials were also present on the occasion.

Sitharaman said that with the opening of the border haat, the economic condition of the people living near the border in both countries would further improve.

She asked Sarkar to expedite the setting up of other border haats.

“The central government would extend all out support to the Tripura government in setting up projects beneficial to the state and improve India-Bangladesh ties,” Sitharaman said.

“Tripura is situated in a strategic location. Hence, it could be the gateway to the Southeast Asian countries.”

Tofail Ahmed said an economic corridor was being established using India’s northeast, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the adjoining regions.

“Bangladesh currently exports goods valued at Taka.30 billion per year to various countries. This could be further enhanced if India and Bangladesh come more closer in trade, economy, connectivity and other sectors.

“India provided all help and support to Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War and Bangladesh’s support to India would continue and it would be further strengthened.”

“The Bangladesh parliament has already ratified the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement but the Indian parliament is yet to endorse the deal,” he said.

He said Bangladesh has achieved a lot in the economic and social sectors and India helped out in this.