Bangladesh keen to increase trade with northeast India
The Bangladesh government is keen to increase trade, business and connectivity with northeast India, officials said here on Tuesday quoting visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
"Chief ministers of northeastern states have also pleaded for more connectivity and trade between the northeastern states and Bangladesh," an official said.
The chief ministers of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya attended the state banquet hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in honour of his Bangladesh counterpart at New Delhi Monday night.
The official quoting deliberations between the three chief ministers and Hasina said: "The Bangladesh prime minister told them that her country is ready to increase trade and connectivity with the northeastern states, especially Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya.
"The Bangladesh premier has also invited the northeastern chief ministers to visit her country and finalise the modalities to further increase trade and connectivity."
The chief ministers have stressed the need for air, rail and bus services between important cities of Bangladesh, including capital Dhaka, with all the capitals of the northeastern states.
"India has also been pressing Bangladesh for allowing transit routes through that country," a Tripura government official told IANS in Agartala.
The official said: "Transit routes through Bangladesh, mainly carrying of cargo, would be immensely beneficial for the northeastern states, which have been facing transportation problems since the partition of India."
Tripura Commerce and Industry Minister Jitendra Chowdhury said: "If Dhaka provides transit facilities to India and allows the use of Chittagong international port and other ports in Bangladesh, commodities and machinery can be transported to the northeast from various parts of India and abroad, saving huge time and money."
"In fact, Bangladesh, with a population of around 160 million people, offers a vast market next door. This offers a great potential for setting up joint venture industries in northeast India, with a view to cater to Bangladesh as well as south-east Asia market," the minister had said while addressing the northeast business summit in Kolkata Saturday.
Agartala is 1,650 km from Kolkata and 2,637 km from New Delhi via Guwahati, whereas the distance between the Tripura capital and Kolkata via Bangladesh is about 350 km.
The northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China and the only land route access to these states from within India is through Assam. But this route passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends.
Bangladesh Commerce Minister Colonel (retired) Faruk Khan, while addressing a trade related meeting recently at Akhaurah (India-Bangladesh checkpost near Agartala), said his government has no problem in allowing India and other neighbouring countries to use Chittagong international port, which is just 75 km from southern Tripura.
India and other south Asian nations have sought access to Chittagong port because of its location in order to cut huge transport costs and time.
"Ports of Bangladesh and India cannot be called 'our port or your port'. All ports are now everybody's ports for economic interest of concerned countries," said Khan, adding that all Bangladeshi ports are being upgraded.
New Delhi is also pursuing its proposal to designate Ashuganj port in Brahmanbaria (in eastern Bangladesh) as a new port of call and to allow India to use Chittagong port.
The protocol between India and Bangladesh on Inland Water Transit and Trade which emanated from the provision of the trade agreement between the two countries was renewed last year up to March 31, 2011. It includes four inland water routes on which vessels of both the countries can ply.
The four inland water routes via eastern Bangladesh are Kolkata-Pandu (in southern Assam), Kolkata-Karimganj (in southern Assam), Rajshahi (in Bangladesh)-Dhulian (in southern Assam), and Karimganj-Pandu.
There are also four ports of call in each country through which inter country trade through inland waterways can take place. These are: Narayanganj, Khulna, Mongla and Sirajganj in Bangladesh and Kolkata, Haldia, Karimganj and Pandu in India.
On an average, distance between important cities of Bangladesh and northeast India is 30 km to 200 km.