The Indian government has approved the 6th multi-facilitated Integrated Check Post (ICP) along the India-Bangladesh borders to boost trade, economy and easier movement of people of the two neighbouring countries, officials said on Wednesday.
According to the officials, the Indian government has already set up or is in the process of setting up five multi-facilitated and multi-utility ICPs in Petrapole-Benapole along West Bengal, Dawki (Meghalaya), Sutarkandi (southern Assam’s Karimganj), Sonamura and Agartala (both Tripura) and the sixth one would be set up in Sabroom in southern Tripura. The works for the ICPs in Dawki and Sutarkandi are almost complete and they will be operational soon.
The Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI), under the Union Home Ministry (MHA), has also set up one ICP each along Pakistan and Myanmar borders and two along the Nepal borders.
A senior official of the Tripura Industry and Commerce Department said that the MHA has informed the LPAI that the Department of Expenditure under the Finance Ministry has given approval of Rs 90.60 crore to acquire land for setting up the new ICP at Sabroom, 135 km south of Agartala.
The Sabroom ICP, which is just 72 km away from the Chittagong international port in southeast Bangladesh, would be set up in 50 acres of land.
In the ICPs, all required authorities and facilities are available, including customs, immigration, banks, weigh bridge, go downs etc.
Besides the ICP, the Indian government has already started work to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the border town Sabroom and Rs 650 crore would be invested in it.
Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had on September 11 laid the foundation for the SEZ, where rubber, bamboo, agri-based products and food processing industries would be set up. An official said that initially Rs 60 crore would be spent to develop the infrastructure in the SEZ.
The 1.8 km long Feni bridge connecting Sabroom with Ramgarh in Bangladesh is being built at a cost of Rs 129 crore and would ease the transportation of goods to and from the northeastern states from various parts of the country and abroad using the Chittagong sea port, Kolkata port and other ports in India and Bangladesh.
The Agartala-Akhaura (Bangladesh) ICP is the second largest trading point between the two neighbours after the Petrapole-Benapole ICP in West Bengal.
Agartala-Akhaura ICP’s senior Manager Debashish Nandi said that trade between India and Bangladesh is now increasing as the Covid-19 related various formalities and guidelines have now been relaxed to a large extent.
Adjacent to Agartala, the Agartala-Akhaura ICP is the most important international trading land port in northeast India with an average of 80-100 trucks loaded with various goods for trades coming to Tripura every day from Bangladesh.
On and average, trades valued at Rs 3 to 4 crore takes place every day through the Agartala-Akhaura ICP.
There are around 35 operational land customs stations along the India-Bangladesh and India-Myanmar borders adjoining the seven northeastern states.
Four Indian northeastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam — share 1,880 km borders with Bangladesh, while Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh share 1,640 km unfenced borders with Myanmar.
Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Doraiswami said on Wednesday that macro issues would help boost India-Bangladesh relations and economic growth of the two neighbouring countries.Stressing on the need to look at the macro issues from a grass-roots level, the Indian envoy said: “The macro issues can be dealt with very efficiently only when they are broken down into smaller parts.”
Highlighting the history of Bangladesh and India, he stressed on the importance of the year 1971 as the foundational rock for the diplomatic relationships between the two close neighbours.
Doraiswamy was speaking at a virtual summit organised by Shillong-based think-tank ‘Asian Confluence’ on Tuesday. Bangladesh Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Md Shahriar Alam, along with many experts, economists and academicians also spoke in the meeting, which was organised as a run-up event to the forthcoming virtual summit to be held between the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh.
Doraiswamy and Alam jointly released a summary report titled “Bangladesh-India Relations: New Dimensions and Opportunities”, prepared by the Asian Confluence led by its Executive Director Sabyasachi Dutta.
The Bangladesh minister recalled the support provided by the Indian government and the people during the liberation movement of Bangladesh.
He noted that despite challenges, the relationships between India and Bangladesh continue to be stable and have flourished in the past few decades.
Alam said that as a member of the UN Security Council, India can play a major role in the region to tackle difficult matters, including the Rohingya issue in Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is working on sustainable and socio-economic development, keeping in mind its vision for 2041,” Alam said.
Those who took part in the panel discussion included summit ambassador Pinak Ranjan Chakraborty, former Governor of Bangladesh Bank Atiur Rahman, Ambassador Riewad V Warjri, Executive Director of Dhaka based SANEM Selim Raihan, FICCI President Jahnabi Phookan, Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Mizanur Rahman, and Centre Head of Neighbourhood Studies Sreeradha Dutta, among others.
Stronger ties between the northeastern region of India and Bangladesh for mutual benefit were highlighted by the panellists.
The 20-page report titled “Bangladesh-India Relations: New Dimensions and Opportunities”, prepared by the Asian Confluence, includes a survey conducted by the organisation and explores the issues related to connectivity, trade and investment, agriculture and energy cooperation.
The report also highlighted the need for further development of border infrastructure, the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) basin, tourism, public healthcare and traditional medicine, and suggests the opportunities in these sectors and the way forward which can aid in strengthening the relationship between the two countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Thursday inaugurated the reopened rail link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh during the virtual bilateral summit. The rail link has been reopened after 55 years.
The railway line from Haldibari (West Bengal) to Chilahati (Bangladesh) has been defunct since 1965, after rail links between India and then East Pakistan had broken.
Speaking on the occasion Modi said, “This year has been full of struggles due to the COVID pandemic, but it is satisfying that Indo-Bangladesh relations have been good during the pandemic.”
The Prime Mininister said, “Bangladesh is a major pillar in our neighbourhood first policy. It has been a special priority for me from day one to strengthen our relations with Bangladesh.”
Modi pointed out that India’s relationship has continuously moved ahead in other fields apart from health sector. “We have reduced hurdles in land border trade. We have also improved connectivity in the two countries and all of these show our commitment to strengthen ties,” he said.
According to the Railway Ministry, the reopening of rail link between Haldibari and Chilahati is a major step towards boosting people-to-people contact.
This rail link will enhance rail network accessibility to the main ports, dry ports, and land borders to support the growth in regional trade and to encourage economic and social development of the region.
The distance between Haldibari railway station till the international border is 4.5 kms while that from Chilahati in Bangladesh till the zero point is around 7.5 kms.
The resurrection of the route will help boost trade, as well as trans-border railway connectivity.