Agartala, June 9 (IANS): Senior officials from India and Bangladesh on Saturday started a five-day joint study to examine facilities and infrastructure along the border and suggest measures to boost cross-border trade.
"We will study the available facilities and infrastructure, and what more is needed to boost India-Bangladesh trade and business," Foreign Trade Director (South Asian, SAARC countries and Iran) Indira Murthy told reporters here.
"Under the ASIDE (Assistance to States for Development of Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities) scheme, LCS (land customs stations) and other infrastructure can be developed to accelerate cross-border trade and business," said Murthy, who is leading the five-member Indian team.
Ten senior officials from the external affairs and commerce ministries and customs department of the two countries will till June 13 to examine infrastructure along both sides of the border before holding a meeting with Tripura officials and ministers.
Bangladesh's senior commerce ministry official B. Shyam said: "Our government is keen to step up trade and business with India, especially with the northeastern states. To support the trade and business, the Bangladesh government is ready to improve its existing infrastructure along the border with India."
The officials of India and Bangladesh would soon conduct similar studies along the international borders with Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
India's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pankaj Saran had earlier this week made a four-day tour of Meghalaya and Tripura to study the border projects agreed between India and Bangladesh.
The Tripura government had last year sent proposals to the central government for setting up seven border haats (markets). But New Delhi and Dhaka have approved four such border markets after mutual consultation.
The haats would be set up in Raghna and Kamalpur in northern Tripura, Kasba in western Tripura and Srinagar in southern Tripura.
A border haat is already functioning along the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya since last year.
"If the existing border infrastructure is upgraded, the volume of trade and business between Bangladesh and the northeastern states of India would increased five to six times," Tripura's Commerce and Industries Minister Jitendra Chaudhury said.
"The haats will be allowed to sell local agricultural and horticultural products, spices, minor forest products (excluding timber), fresh and dry fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry items, wooden furniture, handloom and handicraft items," a senior Tripura government official, who did want to be named, told IANS.
He said trading in these markets would be held once or twice a week, and a spending cap of $50 would be imposed per head.
No local tax would be imposed on the trading, and both Indian and Bangladeshi currencies would be accepted, the official said.
"Trade between Bangladesh and Tripura alone has increased from Rs.4 crore in 1996 to Rs.258 crore in the last financial year. During the current fiscal (2011-12) up to December (last year), the trade increased to Rs.232 crore and is expected to cross Rs.300 crore by March-end," he said.