India has attached importance to Khulna to improve connectivity and trade infrastructure in the region to open up new opportunities for investment.
“Khulna, already an important hub for jute, seafood processing and shipbuilding, holds great potential for attracting investments,” Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla said yesterday.
“Its access to Mongla port and proximity to a big Indian market increase its attractiveness as a destination for investment.”
He spoke while addressing a programme at Khulna Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday.
Shringla also said India has identified Mongla as one of the potential locations for establishing a special economic zone for Indian companies.
“The feasibility study on Mongla SEZ is going on, and will be completed soon,” he added.
He said India has also offered partnership to Bangladesh in modernising the infrastructure at Mongla port and to construct Khan Jahan Ali Airport. Shringla said a number of Indian companies have also set up their plants in the Khulna division -- VIP Industries has a manufacturing unit in the Mongla EPZ; Tata Motors has an assembly plant in Jessore; Hero MotoCorp is investing around $30 million to set up a motorcycle manufacturing plant in Jessore.
India has decided to open an Assistant High Commission in Khulna city and hoped to have this set-up at the earliest possible once the formalities are completed, according to Shringla.
Shringla said Khulna can also serve as a hub for promoting tourism to the Sundarbans and to other historical sites in the vicinity, particularly the Mosque City of Bagerhat, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
“We hope to sign an agreement that provides for greater exchanges in the tourism sector, including the visit of cruise ships.”
Referring to his visit to Khulna, he said that he arrived in Khulna directly from a visit to the Khulna-Mongla railway line project financed under a line of credit from India.
Land acquisition by the concerned authorities has begun.
“This has allowed construction to begin, making it possible for us to aim to complete the Rupsha Bridge by 2018 and the project by 2019.”
“Once completed, the railway line will significantly improve connectivity between Mongla port and the rest of the country through Khulna,” he said.
As part of India's larger focus to improve connectivity and trade infrastructure between India and Bangladesh, Petrapole integrated check post with state-of-the-art infrastructure for facilitating cargo movement was jointly inaugurated by the prime ministers in July 2016, he said.
The Ghojadanga Land Customs Station (Bhomra on the Bangladesh side), which is closer to Khulna, is also proposed to be upgraded to an integrated check-post.
The trial run of the Kolkata-Khulna bus service ended successfully in August 2016, and now it is also expected to be launched soon, he said.
He said the bilateral trade has registered a substantial increase over the last few years. Since 2001-02, Bangladesh's exports to India grew 10 times and India's exports (and the total trade) grew nearly six-fold.
Total India-Bangladesh trade stood at $6.14 billion in 2015-16.
However, India's exports to Bangladesh have declined although Bangladesh's exports to India have seen a substantial increase in the last two years.
Bangladesh's exports to India increased 30.8 percent year-on-year to $689.62 million in 2015-16, while India's exports declined 6.3 percent in the same period.