Speakers at a recent webinar emphasised the importance of border haats (markets), labelling them an effective tool to reduce cross-border informal trade and strengthen people-to-people connectivity among residents living at frontiers.
This came at a briefing on the publication of two papers focusing on border haats between India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, read a press release issued by CUTS International – an Indian non-profit organisation dealing with equal rights, amenities, education, food and development opportunities.
Speaking on the occasion, CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee discussed the opportunities and challenges regarding the establishment of border haats between India-Myanmar and Bangladesh-Myanmar.
The idea of border haats was conceived by the governments of India and Bangladesh.
In her address, Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, who also authored the briefing paper titled "Border Haats on Bangladesh-Myanmar Border Opportunities and Challenges," mentioned that informal trade is predominant between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The total trade volume between Bangladesh and Myanmar was approximately $75 million during 2013-14 while informal trade was roughly $300 million.
"The existing tax regime and stringent licencing system, especially in Myanmar, are the key reasons why trade via informal channels is more than trade through formal channels," she argued.
Border haats would not only reduce informal trade, but also strengthen people-to-people ties, and foster peace, security and stability in the border areas between Bangladesh and Myanmar, said Nazneen.
Subir Bhaumik, editorial director, Easternlink Media and author of the briefing paper titled "Border Haats on India-Myanmar Border Opportunities and Challenges," stressed the need to view border haats in the context of larger national and regional realities.
Geo-political and ethnic concerns inevitably amplify concerns for security which, in turn, impose a restraint on the establishment of border haats, observed the veteran journalist.
According to Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, a former ambassador of India to Bangladesh, there is a need to highlight border haats as a means of promoting peace and security in the border areas.
The webinar was organised by CUTS.