Dhaka, Delhi set to renew water transit pact

February 15th, 2009 - 12:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 15 (IANS) Dhaka and New Delhi are set to renew the inland water transit and trade deal shortly and may add Ashuganj as the ninth port of call for easy transport of Indian goods from Kolkata to Agartala through Bangladesh.

With the addition of Ashuganj, Indian goods could move faster from Kolkata to Tripura in India’s northeast through the Akhaura-Agartala railway route, New Age newspaper said Sunday quoting unnamed diplomatic sources.

Ashuganj is in Brahmanbaria district of Chittagong division in Bangladesh. It is located in the Meghna river delta.

The move comes close on the heels of the two South Asian neighbours discussing a road transit arrangement last week when Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited here.

The two sides signed a “basic agreement” on this to be followed up by a protocol once details are worked out.

However, Dhaka faces political opposition to the transit which centres on security issues, a give-and-take and insistence that it should not be “anti-national”.

The bilateral deal on inland water transit, Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, aimed at boosting inland water trade, is scheduled to expire March 31, 2009.

It was last renewed in New Delhi May 1, 2007.

Bangladesh foreign ministry officials told New Age that the issue of including Ashuganj as a port of call was discussed during Mukherjee’s visit.

Officials said if the frequency of transport of Indian goods increases, it would significantly increase trade and revenue for Bangladesh.

“Allowing Ashuganj as a port of call will also allow Bangladesh to get another port of call in India,” said an official.

Bangladesh has an adverse trade balance to the tune of $1 billion annually and hopes to bridge the gap through transit via different modes of transport.

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