Bangladeshi officials described the fair as an exercise to familiarise Indian businessmen with Bangladeshi capabilities.

Mohan Padmanabhan

AgartalaMarch 20The Union Minister of State for Commerce, Mr Jairam Ramesh, has said that allowing greater investments from India into Bangladesh could be one way of minimising the trade balance through the buyback route.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of the first Bangladesh Single Country Trade Fair in India.

He also said that India should open up the FDI route for investments from Bangladesh, with approvals on a case-by-case basis.

"We did this with Sri Lanka and the results are there for everyone to see," he said, adding that while Bangladesh has substantial negative trade balance with India, with Tripura it enjoys a favourable balance.

The Tripura capital is located close to the border and plenty of consumables and other merchandise from Bangladesh flow into the State.

Urging Bangladesh to view the proposed $3-billion investment by the Tatas objectively, the Minister said that this step alone could help increase Bangladeshi exports into India.

He added that by not clearing the proposal, which has been hanging fire for well over a year, Bangladesh was only hurting itself. "I feel that such investment proposals from India should be looked at positively and not conspiratorially."

Mr Manik Sarkar, Chief Minister of Tripura, said that creating a trade market for Bangladeshi products in Tripura may be beneficial for both countries, and particularly the North-East region, in the long run.

Welcoming investments from Bangladesh into the region, as Indian investors still fight shy of the North-East, Mr Sarkar said: "We need to remove all the non-tariff barriers that come in the way of greater Indo-Bangladesh border trade."

Seeking a joint mechanism under which the bureaucrats of both countries could work together to remove the barriers, he appealed to Bangladesh to provide transit facilities for people of landlocked Tripura to reach the Indian mainland.

Stressing on the Agartala-Akoura (on Bangladesh side) rail link, the Chief Minister said: "Work on the Indian side by our Railways is on to complete the 13-km rail stretch speedily."

Meanwhile, visiting Bangladeshi officials described the fair as an exercise to familiarise Indian businessmen with Bangladeshi capabilities.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 21, 2007)
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