Tariff and non-tariff barriers, complicated system of visa allotment of India and poor connectivity are two major impediments of trade ties between India and the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) countries, say the consul corps of those countries.
Wang Xuefeng, Consul General of The People’s Republic of China in Kolkata said that in 2013, 7,00,000 Indians visited China whereas only one lakh Chinese came to India. “There is still a big gap to be bridged. One of the big reasons for this huge gap is the complicated process of visa application in India. Chinese companies in India say it takes 4-5 months to get a working visa here. Our two governments need to concentrate on measures to relax these measures and make a platform for enterprises of both sides to communicate,” he said.
He, however, added that Kolkata had its geographical advantage and it was “good to see that the West Bengal government had issued the new MSME and textile policies”.
Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Consul General of Nepal in Kolkata, said removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers at the earliest was one of the utmost necessities. “There is peace and stability in Nepal. Political scene is also stable. It is time to attract investment from India in general and West Bengal in particular because of the close proximity,” he said.
He also highlighted the expensive transaction cost between India and Nepal and poor road connectivity. “Look at NH-34, the highway which connects West Bengal with Nepal. The state of the road is not very user-friendly, especially the 40-km stretch between Raipur and Dalkhola,” he said.
Abida Islam, deputy high commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata, too pointed out the problem of poor connectivity between the two countries. “Both India and Bangladesh should boost our water, rail and road connectivity. Direct linkages can reduce transaction cost significantly. River connectivity is there and we should therefore work together to obtain the maximum benefit from the waterways, including dredging common rivers to restore navigation and prevent flooding, improving security, customs and other infrastructure. It will not only mean better connectivity to the northeastern states of India but also landlocked countries like Nepal and Bhutan,” she said.
Abida pointed out that it took 43 years for the countries to initiate direct train service between Kolkata and Dhaka in April 2008.
“India and Bangladesh should work more closely to formulate a body or a task force comprising representatives of government and trade bodies and other stake holders to root out these barriers at a faster pace to improve our trade ties,” she said.
Kyaw Swe Tint, consul general of the union of Myanmar in Kolkata, said, a people to people contact was very much necessary for improving trade relations. “We want to establish a system of regular exchange of market information, between India and Myanmar. We have to seek ways and means to step up border trade,” he said.