Immigration services at Banglabandha land port in Panchagarh and the corresponding Phulbari land port in Jalpaiguri of West Bengal began yesterday amid festivity and hope that it would boost trade and tourism between the two countries.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and Minister of State for External Affairs of India Vijay Kumar Singh jointly inaugurated the immigration services.
This is the 28th land port through which movement of people between India and Bangladesh would take place.
The immigration service is part of several measures being taken by the governments of Bangladesh and India to increase people-to-people contact and facilitate movement of goods between the two counties and the sub-region.
The Phulbari immigration services will connect people from Rangpur and Dinajpur districts of Bangladesh, and Jalpaiguri, Cooch Bihar, Darjeeling and Dinajpur districts of northern West Bengal, and Sikkim and Assam, according to a statement of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.
Prior to the inauguration, a discussion was held at Banglabandha land port, where Vijay Singh, who took part in Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971, said the relationship between two neighbouring countries would be stronger through the opening of the immigration service there.
The two countries would reap the benefits through trading, tourism, education and health care services, he said.
Echoing Singh, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said: “Through the opening of the port, the relationship between the two countries will be strengthened. It will help flourish business, trade and tourism.”
He also said the brotherhood between the two countries was strengthening by the competent leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Premier Narendra Modi.
The inauguration of the immigration service fulfils a long-pending demand of the people of the area.
Businesspeople said the Banglabandha-Phulbari land port had more potential than the Benapole-Petrapole, as it is very close to Shiliguri, the gateway to the North East of India, Nepal and Bhutan.
From Banglabandha, West Bengal's major commercial city Siliguri is just eight kilometres; Nepal's Kakorvita about 58km; the border of Bhutan is about 130km; and Nathula of China is 200km.
No other port of Bangladesh is closer to these places than Banglabandha, said Ashraful Alam Patwary, who led a 32-member team of Panchagarh Chamber of Commerce and Industries to enter India through the ports on the inaugural day.
He said they had been eagerly waiting for this day. The ports would help establish mills and factories in the region and create job opportunities.
Export and import of goods through Banglabandha border began in September 1997, and full trade services with India and Nepal were launched at the port in January 2011.
West Bengal government's North Bengal Development Department's Minister-in-Charge Goutam Deb, Municipal Affairs and Urban Development Department's Minister-in-Charge Firhad Hakim, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India Syed Muazzem Ali, Border Guard Bangladesh Director General Maj Gen Aziz Ahmed were, among others, present at the event.