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India mulls on supplying onions to its neighbours following the decision to ban onion exports

New Delhi: India is working on an arrangement to supply onions to Bangladesh and a few other neighbouring countries in an uninterrupted fashion to uphold the spirit of the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy.

The government has yet to firm up a decision but initial talks have taken place on such an arrangement in the backdrop of a crisis in Bangladesh following the decision to ban exports of onion, said people aware of the matter.

Onion is a staple in Bangladesh, which is the biggest importer of Indian onions in the neighbourhood.

India and Bangladesh are due to review the entire gamut of ties at a meeting between their foreign ministers later this month, from connectivity initiatives to security partnership to joint celebrations of Mujibur Rehman’s birth centenary and energy pipeline to defence partnership.

A big consignment of onions meant for Bangladesh got stuck in West Bengal following the government’s order on banning exports of onions and it was only cleared after the external affairs ministry’s intervention, said the people.

A large number of trucks laden with onions on their way to Bangladesh had to suddenly stop in West Bengal when the concerned department on September 14 announced its decision to ban export of onions.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade banned all exports of the item last Monday following a shortage and sudden increase in prices in the domestic market.

“India has allowed export of around 25,000 MT of onions to Bangladesh which is already under transit or being processed for exports,” said a government official. “It is a special gesture to our close friend.”

Onion exports to other neighbouring countries which import the product were also cleared.

Bangladesh had lodged a formal protest with India as the abrupt decision contradicted the current state of bilateral partnership. Bangladesh foreign minister A K Abdul Momen said on Thursday last week, “I heard that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is very repentant because they didn’t know about the sudden ban.”

On Saturday, Momen wrote a letter condoling the demise of external affairs minister’s mother.

This is the second time in less than a year that a ban on onion exports has had an impact on Bangladesh. Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina had formally raised the issue of ban during a visit here last October and jokingly told a public gathering that she had asked her cook to prepare her food without onions. She had also said that the Indian side should give advance notice of such bans.

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