New Delhi asks Dhaka to allow river transit to Tripura

March 24th, 2009 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, March 24 (IANS) New Delhi has asked Dhaka to allow transportation of heavy machinery and other equipment through the latter’s Ashuganj river port to construct a power plant in India’s northeastern state of Tripura.
New Delhi may be shifting emphasis to river transit from its earlier plea for land transit that Dhaka finds contentious and politically sensitive, New Age newspaper said Tuesday.

India now wants to transport heavy equipment from Kolkata to Agartala through the river network.

An Indian delegation made the request Monday, the first day of the two-day talks on water transit. New Delhi offered to help build all the required infrastructure on the Bangladesh side for transporting Indian machinery if Dhaka agrees to its proposal, sources told the newspaper.

“Perhaps, India’s Ministry of External Affairs will put forward the proposal to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs for further discussion. This forum is unlikely to take any decision on such an issue,” said a source.

“After creation of widespread controversies over the issue of giving India transit through Bangladesh, Delhi has apparently shifted its demand to the low-visibility issue of water transit so that there are no political repercussions in Dhaka,” it said.

As the two countries are set to renew the Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol during the talks, the Indian delegation tried to persuade the Bangladeshi team to include Ashuganj as a new port of call for facilitating transportation of Indian goods from Kolkata to Agartala, said sources.

Tripura is a tiny state tucked away on Bangladesh’s eastern side.

The shipping secretary, Masud Elahi, and additional secretary of India’s road, transport and highways ministry, Vijay Chhibber, represented their sides in the negotiations.

The Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol was first signed in 1980 under a bilateral trade agreement to ensure mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of the waterways for commerce, and for keeping the river routes navigable. The protocol was first renewed in 1999, then in 2001 and last in 2007.

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