Two-way India- Bangladesh trade via West Bengal restored after Delhi’s herculean efforts

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The impasse on the Indo-Bangladesh border trade through Petrapole-Benapole has finally been resolved with the first truck from Bangladesh entering India on Sunday since March restoring two-way bilateral trade following the Central government’s franctic efforts led by MEA.

ET has learnt that this has been made possible following herculean efforts by MEA, MHA and Commerce as well as Indian High Commission in Dhaka. The West Bengal government had refused entry of trucks following fears of the spread of Covid.

India-Bangladesh trade has remained disrupted since March 23 due to restrictions at Integrated Check Post (ICP) Petrapole- Benapole imposed by the Govt of West Bengal. The trade resumed at ICP Petrapole on April 29 but was soon halted on May 2, owing to some local protests at Petrapole.

Trade at the ICP again resumed on the ICP Petrapole –Benapole on June 7 and gradually the truck movement increased from 24 trucks/day to around 250 trucks per day.

However, West Bengal Govt permitted only one way trade from India (Petrapole) to Bangladesh (Benapole). No exports from Bangladesh to India have been allowed by the West Bengal Govt since March 2020, while Bangladesh has allowed Indian trucks to move into Bangladesh from all border points in West Bengal.

“There has been some discontent brewing in Bangladesh on the decision of the government of West Bengal to not allow the Bangladeshi trucks to come on the Indian side. This has led to some protests at the ICP on July 1 and blocking of Indian trucks moving towards Bangladesh.Some partial trade resumed in the evening 106 trucks crossed from Indian side. But it was again disrupted,” a person familiar with the issue told ET.

The Home Ministry had in April taken up the issue of cessation of permission by the government of West Bengal for trucks and goods vehicles along India’s border with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The Home Ministry on the advice of MEA had mentioned that closure of trading points particularly for the landlocked neighbors was an international issue and called into question India’s implementation of legally binding international agreements.

It had also stated that the act of the West Bengal government was in clear violation of orders issued by MHA under the Disaster Management Act 2005 as well as well as Articles 253, 256 and 257 of the constitution.

Some 70 percent of India Bangladesh land trade takes place through the ICP Petropole-Benaople. The disruption of trade through this ICP and the inflexibility of the state government to allow trucks from Bangladesh has had a negative impact on bilateral trade.

The bilateral trade for the period April-May 2020 was $ 424 million. In contrast, in April-June 2019 bilateral trade was nearly $ 2bn.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh exports to Tripura have more or less remained uninterrupted during the lockdown period.

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