India and Bangladesh hold Commerce Secretary Level Meeting

Contact Counsellor

India and Bangladesh hold Commerce Secretary Level Meeting

  • A Commerce Secretary level meeting between India and Bangladesh was held in New Delhi recently
  • Issues of mutual interest were discussed between both sides during meeting
  • Both sides appreciated significant growth in the bilateral trade between the two countries in recent years

Developments during meeting

  • Trade facilitation: trade will be facilitated between India-Bangladesh through railways
  • Integrated Check Post (ICP): 24x7 operationalization of Petrapole-Benapole Integrated Check Post (ICP) to be implemented
  • Regional connectivity: it will be strengthened between the two countries through multi-modal transport
  • CEPA: Joint Study on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to be finalised at the earliest

Other issues discussed during Meeting

  • Development of railway infrastructure, port infrastructure, Border Haats, Harmonisation of Standards and Mutual Recognition Agreement

Economic cooperation between India and Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh is the 6th largest trade partner of India
  • Exports of Bangladesh: apparels and clothing, textile fabrics, paper yarn/woven fabrics of paper yarn, animal/vegetable fats and oils, fish etc.
  • Exports of India: cotton, electrical machinery, vehicles, iron and steel, plastic and related articles etc.
  • Meetings of various institutional mechanisms to promote bilateral trade: Secretary level meetings of Commerce and shipping ministries, LCS/ICP infrastructure and establishment of Indian Economic Zone etc.
  • India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum: to enhance linkages and collaboration in the textile sector.

Development Partnership between India and Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh is the biggest development partner of India .
  • Line of Credits: India has extended 3 Lines of credit in the last 8 years of US$ 8 billion for development of infrastructure (roads, railways, shipping and ports etc).
  • Grant assistance to Bangladesh for infrastructure projects :
  • construction of Akhaura-Agartala rail link,
  • dredging of inland waterways in Bangladesh and
  • construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline.
  • Small Development Projects (SDPs): India funded 55 SDPs like academic buildings, cultural centres,orphanages etc.
  • High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs): India funded 68 HICDPs including construction of student hostels, academic buildings, skill development and training institutes, cultural centres, and orphanages etc and another 16 HICDPs are being implemented.

Military cooperation

  • Armed forces from both sides regularly conduct joint drills like MILAN.
  • India extended a $500 million line of credit for defence imports from India.
  • Sampriti Exercise: bilateral defence coop. exercise between armies of both countries which was started in 2009.


  • Rail links: Both are restoring the pre- 1965 rail links like in Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh and work on Akhaura-Agartala rail link, Khulna-Mongla is underway.
  • Passenger train: Frequency of 2 passenger trains, i.e., Maitree Express and Bandhan Express increased.
  • Side-door container and parcel trains: To maintain uninterrupted supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Gauge diesel locomotives: 10 broad gauge diesel locomotives handed over by India as part of grant assistance to Bangladesh Railways
  • Bus service: Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka and Dhaka-Siliguri-Darjeeling-Dhaka.
  • Feni Bridge (Maitree Setu): 1.9 km bridge built over Feni river joining Sabroom, India & Ramgarh, Bangladesh.
  • Aim: To facilitate trade and people to people movement.
  • Its name symbolises growing bilateral relations and friendly ties b/w the 2 countries.
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India (BBIN), Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA), 2015: For regulation of passenger, personnel and cargo vehicular traffic among four South Asian neighbours.
  • Inland routes and ports: Bangladesh granted permission to use its inland route and ports of Chittagong and Mongla for trans-shipment of goods to northeast Indian states.

Challenges in the relationship

  • Cross-border Migration: Illegal migration from Bangladesh leads to demographic shifts in bordering states in the North East which gives rise to socio-ethnic tensions among locals and migrants.
  • National Registration of Citizens (NRC) issue: Bangladesh has concerns about influx of 1000s of people across the border following deportation.
  • Water Disputes: 54 common rivers including Ganges and Brahmaputra.
  • So there are Issues over sharing of river waters, interlinking of rivers and building of dams.
  • Rising Radicalization: Presence of groups like Harkat-alJihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Jamaat-e-Islami, and HUJI-B fuel anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh.
  • Cross border crime: Tough terrain, porous border leads to smuggling of arms, narcotics, fake Indian currencies, cattle and trafficking of women and children.
  • China factor: China sees Bangladesh as a strategic focal point to make inroads into South Asia as an alternative to India.
  • Heightened level of China-Bangladesh ties leads to increased India’s security vulnerabilities in the critical northeastern region (around “Siliguri Corridor”).
  • Delay in project execution: Till 2017, India extended 3 lines of credit of ~ $7.4 billion.
  • However, less than 10% of cumulative commitments were dispersed so far.

Way Forward

  • Deepening relationship with Bangladesh is a necessity for shifting geo-economics.
  • There is a need to address the issues of mutual interest and effective border management for ensuring a tranquil, stable and crime free border.
  • Both countries need to work on 3Cs — cooperation, collaboration, and consolidation for fostering bilateral relations