“How do we lose (by importing)?” he asked while speaking at a session on trade and connectivity at Bangladesh-India cooperation conference on Sunday.
Bangladesh Itihas Sammilani organised the conference in Dhaka with the Kolkata-based Center for East and Northeast Regional Studies at Bangla Academy.
Tofail said nobody discusses the trade gap with China. “Everyone talks about India”.
He said Bangladesh imports cotton and fabrics from India and use it for our export-oriented apparel industry. “From where can we import, if it’s not India? Uzbekistan is an option, but it is too far. That would increase the price”.
“We don’t have the capacity to export, despite India’s duty-free access to Bangladesh,” he said, asking the critics to be “realistic”.
Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue Prof Mustafizur Rahman also said that he did not find any problem in the trade gap with India.
He said Bangladesh could not take the advantage of the India’s huge $448 billion import market, despite duty free privileges.
The share of Bangladesh’s exports in the global import of India was a mere 0.1 percent in the 2014-15 fiscal, according to Rahman.
“When Indian investors come to Bangladesh, the situation will change as they will be exporting from here,” he said referring to the government’s move of two special economic zones dedicated for India.
He said Bangladesh must do its best to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the Indian market by doing proper “homework”.
Former Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty who served between 1999 and 2002 in Dhaka, said India has $50 billion trade gap with China. “But we are not crying in New Delhi for this”.
“India is a huge market. All countries want to do business here. Bangladesh must compete with the international market,” he said.
He said as for as Bangladesh is concerned, there is no change in Indian policy when the regime changes in New Delhi.
He, however, suggested reconnecting all the historic connectivity points that existed before Partition.
Academics, security experts and former diplomats of both countries attended the conference.