India is set to relax the visa procedures for Bangladeshi nationals and increase the number of visa centres in the country to tackle the increasing demand for visas, the Indian envoy in Dhaka said yesterday.
Pankaj Saran, however, did not disclose the number of new visa centres that would be set up to complement the six existing visa centres in the capital's Gulshan and Motijheel areas, Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna and Rajshahi.
He added that New Delhi had given the Indian high commission the go-ahead to issue multiple entry visas with five-year validity for Bangladeshi nationals to reduce the work load.
The Indian high commissioner's comments came at a luncheon meeting of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Dhaka yesterday.
About the expansion of the limited on-arrival visa scheme to tourists from 180 countries from October, Saran said Bangladeshi nationals would also be beneficiaries of the scheme. Meanwhile, he urged the government to strengthen the capacity of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution so that the certification of the state-owned testing agency is well-accepted by Indian traders.
He said the Indian government has also set up some testing labs in bordering areas for strengthening bilateral trade through removal of non-tariff barriers.
Latifur Rahman, chairman and chief executive officer of Transcom Group, said Bangladeshi businessmen need not be limited to just the north-eastern Indian states when it comes to making investments in the neighbouring country.
“They can also look to other parts of India like Mumbai,” he said, adding that the Reserve Bank of India has placed some restrictions on investment in the north-eastern states.
Tabith Mohammed Awal, deputy chief executive officer of Multimode Group, urged the Indian government to shorten the period of phytosanitary testing certification so that the perishable goods can be exported to India quicker.
MCCI President Rokia Afzal Rahman moderated the meeting.
The Indian high commissioner said, “The development of Ashuganj Port is underway. We know we should modernise our LCSs [Land Customs Stations] and border infrastructures built to cater to traffic of the 50s, 60s and 70s.”
“We know we should start coastal shipping and have a long-term inland waterways usage plan. We know we should try to convert illegal trade into legal trade. Two border haats are operational in Meghalaya. More are under consideration on the Tripura and Meghalaya borders,” he said.
“We know we should step up our cooperation in the areas of energy security, food security, environment protection, and water management.”
Pankaj also sounded optimistic about the investment of Indian businesses in Bangladesh.
“Several Indian giants such as Airtel, Tata, Sun Pharma, Asian Paints, Dabur, Marico, Aditya Birla, Godrej and so on are operating in Bangladesh. The list is by no means exhaustive. Moreover, some important investments are in the pipeline,” he went on.
The Indian envoy stressed greater sub-regional cooperation, greater integration and greater connectivity in the coming days.