August 23, 2010, New Delhi

“The recent Indo-Bangla accord has increased the likelihood of significant breakthroughs in economic relations between the two countries – if constituent agreements are implemented it is likely that Indo-Bangla trade will not only double in the next 5 years but India and Bangladesh, through reciprocal provision of connectivity, would become major facilitators of each other’s trade with the rest of the world. There is a need, however, to closely track and monitor such implementation.”

This is how Siddhartha Mitra, Director, CUTS International and Convenor of the Indian Chapter of the Sub-Regional Independent Task Force on Connectivity and Cooperation summarised the recommendations made by the task force to the Indian Prime Minister in a memorandum submitted earlier today (see for letter to PM with enclosed memorandum). The memorandum has been endorsed by leading representatives of civil society, business, and media from both countries including Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International; Matlub Ahmad, President, Indo-Bangla Chamber of Commerce; Anil Saraf, Director, Federation of Industries & Commerce of North Eastern Region; M.L Debnath, President, Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industries; and Sanjib Deb, Chief of Bureau, NE Bangla, Agartala.

The mentioned taskforce was formed at a CUTS organised stakeholder consultation at Agartala in August last year and submitted a memorandum to the Indian Prime Minister later that year. Subsequent meetings, involving the foreign ministers and Prime Ministers of both countries, saw agreements incorporating many of the recommendations in that memorandum being reached.

“The task force is extremely happy with the conclusion of the mentioned agreements but realises the need for their speedy implementation through measures such as the construction of the Akhaura-Agartala rail link which would connect India and Bangladesh by rail; provision of transhipment facilities through the river port of Ashuganj and the sea port of Chittagong on a permanent basis by the Government of Bangladesh for Indian goods; and power export from India to Bangladesh. Recommendations for meeting this need were made at a stakeholder consultation organised by CUTS in Agartala on June 20 this year and have been submitted in the form of a new memorandum to the Indian PM”, Mitra added.

In conclusion, Mitra urged the governments of the two countries to provide greater information in the public domain about progress in the implementation of the mentioned measures and install a tracking mechanism involving civil society and media representatives from both countries.