Dhaka, New Delhi renew river trade, transit protocol

March 25th, 2009 - 1:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, March 25 (IANS) Dhaka and New Delhi have renewed for two years their river trade and transit treaty. Now experts will explore the feasibility of India using more river ports in Bangladesh to reach isolated parts of northeastern India.
The committees will begin work next month and make recommendations, it was decided as the two south Asian nations renewed for two years the treaty that has been in operation since 1980.

“Before finalising anything (inclusion of new ports), we have decided the technical committee will look into the proposals and give their recommendations when they meet in April,” Vijay Chhibber, additional secretary of India’s road, transport and highways ministry, told the media after a two-day meeting concluded with the pact’s renewal.

Both Chibber and his Bangladesh counterpart Masud Elahi, secretary in charge of the shipping ministry, claimed the renewal of the deal would contribute to trade enhancement between the countries significantly, New Age newspaper said Wednesday.

India has for long pressed for the inclusion of Ashuganj port in the treaty, especially for easy transport of Indian goods from Kolkata to Tripura capital Agartala through Bangladesh.

If India could ferry its goods up to Ashuganj through waterways, it could easily transport them to Tripura through the Akhaura-Agartala railway route. India also proposed to add Paglaghat, Meghnaghat and Noapara in Khulna, apart from Ashuganj, to the list of ports.

On the other hand Bangladesh wants to get Shilghat as a new port under the treaty.

A broad understanding on renewing the pact was reached when India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was here last month.

Besides access to river ports, India is also seeking land transit to reach its northeastern region. A protocol was signed during Mukherjee’s visit.

India says it is an economic issue, but for Bangladesh, land transit is a politically sensitive issue with many Bangladeshis demanding an economic trade-off in lieu of the transit facility.

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