Sunday, December 26, 2010

Border Trade- Lunglei to Chittagong

The other day, I was just googling google map and seeing the distance from Lunglei, Mizoram to Chittagong, Bangladesh & was surprised to see the distance that would have to be travelled, from the North of Mizoram to Tripura, a neighboring state and then enter Bangladesh to reach Chittagong, a total distance of 449 km whereas if you see below, the distance from Lunglei to Chittagong would be almost the same distance as Aizawl to Lunglei, which is around 160 km's.

Looking at this map made me think a lot about the opportunities that Mizoram has for trade as well as many of the challenges that it will pose to Mizoram if a border trade station is opened up. I will try to list some of the Pro's & Con's of the border trade.

1. Chittagong has one of the largest sea port in Bangladesh & this would open up opportunity for Mizoram to export some of it's forest product & import international good's to the state.
2. Mizoram's Congress political party has launched a scheme called "National Land Use Policy" which envison's building up a livelihood of the farmers by mass production of livelihood, vegetables, fruits & forest products. Having a border trade with Bangladesh would open up markets to sell this products not only to Bangladesh but also for export to other countries.
3. Mizoram could reposition itself not only as a national trading center but an international trading center as it is sandwiched between Myanmar & Bangladesh. For instance, if goods were to be transported from Chittagong to Yunnan, in China it could be transported through Tlabung, a southern town connecting Mizoram to Zokhawthar in the north east part of Mizoram, shortening the route for transportation of goods from the port of Chittagong, Bangladesh to China. This route would be much shorter than transporting goods through Bangladesh, which would have to travel to the south of bangladesh and then around Mizoram which would save thousands of kilometres. As China is emerging as an economic gain, it is looking for ways to be able to transport goods without going around the Malacca strait near Singapore, which is rampant with piracy and is a very long route. If good's are transported through Mizoram this way, this would present Mizoram to be an international trading center like Hong Kong or Singapore.
4. Trading through Chittagong presents an opportunity for other states in Northeast like Manipur, Nagland, Meghalaya, Assam etc to transport their goods to import & export through Mizoram to Chittagong, which would be a much shorter route than through the chicken neck near Siliguri. Many International trading firms & Banks are also located in Chittagong.
5. Opening of a trade centre would open the opportunity for Mizoram to build up it's Tourism infrastructure to attract tourist not only from Bangladesh but from other countries too as Chittagong also has the nearest International Airport (Shah Amanat International Airport) to Mizoram.

1. It's important to remember that even though it was India that helped in Bangladesh's Independence, the relationship between the two nation has not always been very smooth and to a certain extent, Bangladesh also used to harbor Insurgent groups from the Northeast of India. The different political parties in Bangladesh have different policies towards India. While Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh National party may not have a very pro India Policy, the present Prime Minister, Sheikha Hasina has a much better relationship with India which presents a challenge for policy makers as International trade route through Mizoram will have to withstand the changes of political government in Bangladesh.
2. The total population of Mizoram is about 800,000 whereas the population of only Chittagong port is about 3,800,000. The people of Mizoram do have a phobia of Assimilation due to it's small population, which is why it has the Inner line Permit System even within India to protect it's ethnic identity. If you look at the population growth of Tripura, a state in India, you will see that in 1951, it had a population of only around 600,000 who are mainly tribals but if you look at the population growth in 1961, it has a population of 11,42,000 which presents a population growth of about 70% which is definitely not because of natural population growth through reproduction but because of migration of Hindu Bengali's from Bangladesh to Tripura during Bangladesh's Independence. Bengalis represent about 70% of the population now, 85% are Hindu's and less than 10% are Tribals. Due to the primitive culture & education of Kokboroks at the time of Bangladesh Independence, the Bengali's who have migrated to Bangladesh have taken over not only the governance of the state but also the trade & commerce within Bangladesh. The native tribals of tripura or the Kokboroks are just a minority within Tripura now. To avoid a situation like Tripura Migrations from Bangladesh will have to be monitored & checked as there is a lot of scope for economic refugee migration as Bangladesh is a poor developing overpopulated country affected by global warming. It would be wise to carefully see if Mizoram will be ready for International trade against the skilled Bangladeshi trader's, will it be dominated or will it be able to collaborate with Bangladeshi's for it's own good.


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  2. I read that Lunglei used to have a direct link to Chittagong before the partition and that it was the educational center of Mizoram