In a bid to improve connectivity, India-Bangladesh forge new ties

During a meeting held in Dhaka on Thursday with the Indian Minister of External Affairs, S Jaishankar, the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered Bangladesh’s main sea port – the Chittagong Port – to Indian eastern states like Assam and Tripura. The decision was in light of forging new ties to improve connectivity between the two countries, facilitating better trade activity. It is also deemed to greatly benefit the Indian Northeast, which has been falling behind on the LEADS Report since its inception.

S Jaishankar’s tweet about his meeting with Sheikh Hasina

If the connectivity is increased, the Indian northeastern states like Assam and Tripura- can have access to the seaport in Chattogram,”

Sheikh Hasina

The Chittagong Port is the main seaport of Bangladesh, located in the port city of Chittagong on the banks of the Karnaphuli River. The port handles 80% of Bangladesh’s export-import trade and has been used by India, Nepal, and Bhutan for trans-shipment.

The Ministers’ meeting also entailed discussions around resuming the formerly closed trade routes between the two countries, as well as bilateral and international trade. Jaishankar also extended an invitation to the Bangladesh PM, on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to visit the capital (tentatively in July 2022).

Jaishankar’s visit to Dhaka also involved discussions around disbursement of loans on bilateral projects, travel services, investment prospects, and starting of new projects between the two countries for power and energy (particularly hydropower).

According to local Bangladeshi media, Jaishankar’s counterpart AK Abdul Momen said that defence sector cooperation, water sharing of Kushiara and Feni rivers, current Covid -19 situation and impacts of Russia-Ukraine war on the global economy came up prominently in the discussion between Jaishankar and Prime Minister Hasina.

Bangladesh has been an economic miracle in South Asia with its unprecedented transformation over the past decade and its growth stems largely from its success as an exporter of garments, which account for around 80% of its total exports. India and Bangladesh are currently undertaking a joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA).

Bangladesh’s share in India’s exports increased from 1.4% in 2010 to 3.5% in 2021. India’s share in Bangladesh goods exports stood at 3.3% and it was the eighth largest export destination. Being part of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), both India and Bangladesh get preferential treatment in terms of tariff concessions in each other’s market, but there exist several non-tariff barriers (NTBs) as well, hampering trade activity.

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