India, Bangladesh plan to set up 16 border haats to increase trade

The new border haats, whose establishment is currently under discussion, will be located in Mizoram and West Bengal.

Shashank Mattoo
Updated16 Aug 2023

New Delhi and Dhaka are considering the establishment of 16 new border haats to increase the volume of trade between the two countries, according to Smita Pant, a senior diplomat in the Ministry of External Affairs.

According to Pant, the two countries have eight haats operational, which are located across a number of northeastern states like Tripura and Meghalaya. Pant was delivering remarks at a conference focused on connectivity between India’s Northeast and Bangladesh, organized by Asian Confluence, a think-tank.

“A border haat is ‘a rough-and-ready market’ allowing ‘local people to trade in locally-grown agricultural and manufactured’ items along the border,” explains Nazneen Ahmed in an article for the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.

The new border haats, whose establishment is currently under discussion, will be located in Mizoram and West Bengal. New border haats may improve access to markets and economic opportunities for border communities while reducing informal trade across the border.

These initiatives come even as both sides plan a slew of measures to improve the flow of trade.

The two countries have stepped up infrastructure building to improve connectivity, with some initiatives funded with support from Japan. The establishment of the Matabari Port in Bangladesh by 2027 is also expected to allow for the easier flow of goods from India to Bangladesh and onwards to Asian markets. The three countries are working together on the “Bay of Bengal Northeast Industrial Value Chain Concept”, which aims to attract manufacturing to India’s Northeast and Bangladesh.

New Delhi and Dhaka are also negotiating a comprehensive economic agreement.

“The two Leaders welcomed the recent finalization of a Joint Feasibility Study which recommended that Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will be beneficial for both countries. They directed trade officials on both sides to start negotiations within the calendar year 2022 and to complete these at the earliest, in time for Bangladesh’s final graduation from LDC status,” reads a joint statement from the meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina in India in September 2022.

Connectivity was in focus during these talks.

“Reiterating the importance of facilitating trade between the two countries, they stressed the urgent need for up-gradation of infrastructure and facilities at the Land Customs Stations/Land Ports, and for removal of port restrictions and other non-tariff barriers at identified Land Custom Station,” reads a joint statement from the visit.

For its part, India has requested “at least one major land port without port restrictions or negative list of restrictions, on the border with North Eastern States of India, for easier market access, starting with ICP Agartala-Akhaura,” according to the same joint statement.

India has also offered Bangladesh free transit through its territory to export goods to third countries through particular Land Customs Stations, seaports and airports. Bangladesh had also requested transit rail connectivity at the Chilahati-Haldibari crossing.

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