Starting yesterday, Fridays are now exclusively open for Bhutanese exports at the Changrabanda-Burimari border.

Ever since trade between Bhutan and Bangladesh started in the 1980s, Fridays remained closed at the India-Bangladesh border Changrabandha-Burimari.

Trade activities were also not allowed.

Bhutan Exporters Association’s (BEA) general secretary, Tshering Yeshi, said Friday is a holiday in Bangladesh and the same was applicable at the border. “That, however, has changed from yesterday. It is a significant moment.”

He said Bhutanese exports from the border were affected due to numerous strikes in India and Friday holiday in Bangladesh, as it left only few days for trade activities in a week.

“From now, at least 1,750 truckloads can make the movement in one week. Prior to this, about 900 trucks could manage.”

BEA had initiated this in November 2017.

Officials say they had worked with the customs and National Board of Revenue in Bangladesh. “Bhutan Embassy in Dhaka, and Consulate General office in Kolkata, India, and Department of Revenue and Customs played an equally important role in helping BEA,” Tshering Yeshi said.

He said the DRC had taken up the matter to be discussed at the joint working group of customs between Bhutan and Bangladesh. “Bangladesh then accepted the proposal.”

However, it was made clear at the joint meeting that the Indian counterpart should also agree and have no problem opening Fridays for Bhutan.

A trilateral meeting was then conducted on May 14 this year at the border, which was attended by the consul general of Royal Bhutanese Consulate office, Kolkata, India and representatives from customs liaison office of Kolkata. Another round of meeting was conducted this month between BEA and assistant customs commissioner of Siliguri.   

On July 26, the Bangladeshi customs issued the notice to initiate and open the first Friday on July 27 exclusively for Bhutan.

“However, to create and maintain equal opportunity for Indian counterpart, two hours would be provided for Indian exports,” Tshering Yeshi said.

He also said the trade between the two countries would now increase and enhance export promotions.

“We would like to thank Bangladesh government, their customs office, Bhutan embassy in Dhaka, Royal Bhutanese Consulate office in Kolkata, and revenue and customs in Bhutan for the support to make this possible.”

He also said BEA would work towards initiating the same arrangement at Fulbari-Banglabandha border between India and Bangladesh, which is another export route for Bhutan.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing