2020-07-05 18:53:00

Trade between India and Bangladesh through the Petrapole-Benapole Integrated Check Point (ICP) has resumed once again thanks to the intervention of the central government after repeated interruptions that led to bilateral commerce plummeting to $ 424 million in April-May 2020 from nearly $ 2 billion at the same time last year.

The restrictions imposed by the West Bengal state government during the lockdown period – that allowed trucks to cross into Bangladesh carrying Indian goods but not permitting Bangladeshi goods to India – had led to discontent brewing in India’s eastern neighbor with who New Delhi has worked hard to improve ties, a person familiar with the development said on Sunday.

The impediments had resulted in trade being disrupted from 23 March, the person said adding, “No exports from Bangladesh to India have been allowed by the West Bengal government since March 2020, while Bangladesh has allowed Indian trucks to move into Bangladesh from all border points in West Bengal.”

The discontent on the part of Bangladesh “led to some protests at the ICP on 1 July and and blocking of Indian trucks moving towards Bangladesh,” the person cited above said. “Some partial trade resumed in the evening (1 July) with 106 trucks crossing from Indian side. But it was disrupted again,” the person said.

The Home Ministry had in April taken up the issue of discontinuation of permission by the West Bengal government for trucks and goods vehicles along India’s border with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, a second person in the know of the matter said.

The Home Ministry, acting on advice from the Indian foreign ministry, conveyed to the state government 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,” the second person said.

The Home Ministry “also stated that the act of West Bengal government was in clear violation of orders issued by MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs ) under the Disaster Management Act 2005″ as well as some articles of the Indian constitution, the person said.

The central govermment intervention has seen as resumption of two way trade at the Petrapole-Benapole ICP, which is a key trading point accounting for some 70 % of bilateral commerce between the two countries, the second person said.

There was no response to calls made to the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s office for comments. The chief minister also holds the portfolio of home affairs in the state.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh exports to the Indian state of Tripura “have more or less remained uninterrupted during the lockdown period,” the second person said.

“Also as trade has more or less been halted at Petrapole- Benapole ICP, trade in essential commodities has increased via the rail route. The highest ever monthly interchange of freight trains happened in June when 103 loaded trains carrying essential commodities like ginger, onion, raw material, finished products etc were handed over to the Bangladesh side,” the person added.

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