July 22, 2007 12:50:04 am
No ban can hurt Bengal more than this.
So New Delhi is contemplating a retaliatory trade response against Bangladesh after it banned the export of Hilsa, the favourite fish of Bengalis, to India citing shortage in the domestic market.
Dhaka banned Hilsa exports on July 4.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has taken up the plight of Hilsa eaters and fish importers with Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and has asked his ministry to intervene.
Dhaka’s decision may have more to do with diplomacy than domestic fish shortage. It has also suspended coal imports from India citing the increase in sulphur content. Dhaka imports around 1.5 million tones of coal from India.
There is a strong suspicion in South Block that the Bangladesh junta has just tweaked New Delhi after India’s comments on the treatment of Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina, who is now in jail.
In his letter, Mukherjee wrote: “This fish is a delicacy in West Bengal… The sudden embargo has impacted the importers in West Bengal.”
Mukherjee’s letter fired up the Commerce Ministry, a powerful section of which has recommended that retaliatory action should be taken against Dhaka. However, other voices in the External Affairs and Commerce Ministry have advocated lowering of the temperatures as the India-Bangladesh trade is heavily tilted in New Delhi’s favour.
As New Delhi has appreciated the junta’s action against Islamic fundamentalists targeting India from Bangladesh soil, it does not want to precipitate matters. It has now asked the Indian High Commission in Dhaka to give a report on whether Hilsa embargo is due to a crunch in domestic production or some other extraneous reasons.
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