Nepal, Bangladesh raise with India Bengal’s decision to halt trade

Economy


New Delhi: Nepal and Bangladesh have raised with India the West Bengal government’s decision to halt cross-border trade through its territory on the grounds that movement of trucks might spread Covid-19 infection in the state.

The problem for India has been compounded because Bangladesh has continued to provide transit facility for goods to landlocked northeast.

The issue for Dhaka is acute as it requires goods, including food items, for the Ramadan season beginning Friday, officials told ET.

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However, the West Bengal government views the issue differently — “the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has charged the state of not doing enough to combat the pandemic but, strangely, the Centre wants Bengal to allow the movement of cross-border trucks”. West Bengal officials said the MHA’s directives were contradictory in nature.

Nepal and Bangladesh are critical to India’s neighbourgood first policy. West Bengal, however, continues to be adamant. MHA has shut some border crossings for movement of people only. The MHA orders permitted movement of goods for cross-border trade. It was the West Bengal authorities that were stopping the movement of goods, officials alleged.

Nepal and Bhutan’s bilateral trade goes through different border crossings, but a good chunk goes through Jaigaon (West Bengal, for Bhutan) and Panitanki (West Bengal, for Nepal).

As far as Bangladesh is concerned, bulk of India’s road-based trade goes through West Bengal.

Over 2,500 trucks are stuck at the Kalitala parking area and about 230 loaded trucks are stuck further ahead at Petrapole in West Bengal, ET has learnt.

Besides, this is the sowing season for jute in Bangladesh and seeds are sourced from West Bengal.

“Despite the challenges and concerns about public health, the governments of UP, Bihar, Assam and Tripura are working to ensure that India’s unavoidable obligations to its neighbours, especially landlocked countries, are fully met,” a source said.

“The local administration in West Bengal should cooperate with central authorities for smooth movement of cargoes to and from Bhutan and Nepal,” said Bipul Chatterjee, executive director of The CUTS International.



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