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Tripura-Bangladesh border fencing to boost trade

Business Standard:  May, 2011

Kolkata/ Guwahati: With border fencing between Tripura and Bangladesh gradually advancing, official border trade too is increasing at the cost of unofficial trade, thus bringing enhanced revenue for the state’s exchequer.

As more border area between the state and the neighbouring country is being fenced, informal trade now gets routed through six notified land custom stations (LCS), spread across the state.

“Due to border fencing, we are witnessing at least 15-20 per cent rise in official trade every year,” a senior official of department of commerce, government of Tripura, said Business Standard.

Fencing of almost 80 per cent of the border between Tripura and Bangladesh has been completed.

The official trade between Tripura and Bangladesh has grown from 40 crore in 2006-07 to 75 crore in 2010-2011, he said. It is expected to touch Rs 100 crore by 2011-12. However, the informal trade between the North-Eastern state and Bangladesh too is believed to around 100 crore.

Official trade between Tripura and Bangladesh started in 1994-95, but unofficial or informal trade has been going on for long.

Interestingly, though Bangladesh has a negative trade balance with India, with Tripura its trade balance is very positive, with Tripura heavily importing goods from the neighbouring country.

"The growing exports from Bangladesh show that it has a potential market in Tripura and North East.

Trade with North East also gives Bangladesh an opportunity to balance its distorted trade balance with India", said the official.

“A negative trade balance is not a matter at all. We want a healthy relationship with Bangladesh. We are looking beyond trade. We want connectivity through Bangladesh,” was what chief minister of Tripura, Manik Sarkar, had once told Business Standard.

Bangladesh exports mainly construction material like cement; stone chips, processed foods and other food items, utensils, garment and fish to Tripura.

The location of Tripura is strategic in the international context, being between Bangladesh on one side and South East Asia on the other. In the past, the state had natural communication links – roads, rail and waterways – with and through Bangladesh.

Tripura is further looking forward towards an enhanced relationship with Bangladesh with the latter granting access to three of its ports – Chittagong, Ashuganj and Mongla, to India.

The access to the ports has provided the landlocked North-East with a shorter access route to the mainland via sea.

Connectivity through Ashuganj port to Haldia port in West Bengal will cut the traveling time to one-fifth.