North East and Bangladesh Keen on Breakthroughs in Economic Cooperation

March 13, 2009, Guwahati, India
“There is immense potential for trade between the North East and Bangladesh. Bangladesh is badly in need of surplus power from the North East and North East in turn can make good use of Bangladesh’s port facilities.”

These were the words of Atiur Rahman, Professor, Dhaka University, while speaking at a conference organised by CUTS International, an NGO engaged in research and advocacy on trade and regulatory issues, in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, New Delhi. An apex business body, the Federation of Industries for North East Region (FINER), was associated with this particular consultation.

The objective behind this consultation was to elicit the views of stakeholders in North Eastern India and Bangladesh about potential for trade and related economic activities involving these two regions, and thereby promote policy responses that reflect stakeholder preferences. T Armstrong Changsan of the Indian Foreign Service and Regional Passport Officer for the North Eastern Region was the Chief Guest at this consultation meeting.

Apart from Atiur Rahman the other speakers at the meeting were Saswati Chowdhury of Omeo Kumar Das Institute for Social Change and Development, Guwahati; Anil Saraf, Director, FINER; Dipanjol Deka, Secretary General, Tea Association of India; and Siddhartha Mitra, Research Director, CUTS International.

The consultation brought to the fore many important channels through which North East and Bangladesh can engage in more fruitful economic cooperation – prominent among these are: connectivity for Bangladesh through the North East and access to Bangladesh’s ports for North Eastern entrepreneurs; commercial transfer of surplus power from the North East to power starved Bangladesh; and greater publicity to exporters from the North East in Bangladesh.

The meeting also resolved that a sustained effort is required to give a permanent push to Indo-Bangla trade. Accordingly, a resolution was passed that CUTS would hold the second consultation meeting with the same collaborators and associates in Agartala by the end of April this year.