India seeks transit facility through 15 routes: report

India seeks transit facility through 15 routes: report

The Financial Express newspaper said India submitted a proposal to Dhaka seeking to use the road, railway and facilities of Bangladesh's Chittagong and Mongla ports to carryout its exports and imports with third countries and transport goods to and from its southeastern region.

"Seeking access to the territory of Bangladesh and its sea ports for the North-Eastern regions of India, New Delhi has invited Bangladesh government to sign a protocol for a period of seven years for the purpose of transit, corridor and use of two ports," the paper said quoting senior Foreign ministry officials.

A foreign ministry spokesman here confirmed the report acknowledging the receipt of the proposal through the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, saying it outlined broad characteristics on transit and use of ports.

The paper said the road and rail routes, sought by India in the proposed protocol were -- Akhaura-Agartala, Sabroom-Ramgarh, Demagiri-Thegamukh, Bibir Bazar-Srimantpur, Belonia-Belonia, Betuli-Old Raghna Bazar, Chatlapur-Manu, Tamabil-Dawki, Borosora-Borosora, Haluaghat-Ghasuapara, Sonamganj-Shellbazar, Darshanak-Gede, Rohanpur-Singhabad, Birol-Radhikapur and Benapole-Petrapole.

The proposed protocol, it said, also expressed Indian willingness to import and export goods from and to third countries through southeastern Chittagong and southwestern Mongla ports, use warehouse facilities under exempted customs duties.

"Movement of cargo under the protocol shall be exempted from customs duties and other charges except reasonable charges for transportation and such other charges as are commensurate with the cost of services rendered in respect of such movement," the paper quoted the proposed protocol as saying.

"Transit fees, if any, to be levied will be decided by mutual consent of both governments." According to the proposal, Bangladesh customs could not examine any Indian containerised cargo if it is sealed (one-time-lock) but in respect of non-containerised ones, the customs house may make a selective percentage examination of the goods to check if the goods were in accordance with customs declaration.

The report came days after Bangladesh's Tariff Commission submitted for government consideration a set of recommendations on transit facilities for India outlining the proposed modalities and fees.

Commerce Minister Faruque Khan yesterday told PTI that Bangladesh would soon decide its final stance on fees for transit facilities to India as the issue continued to dominate the center stage of Dhaka-New Delhi relations and the country's domestic politics.

"I can tell you this much now that we are yet to take a final stand on the fees for transit but soon I will be able to announce our decision in this regard (and) it will be made protecting the best interests of the country," he said.

But newspaper reports said the commission suggested transit routes, charges, traffic volumes, investments and benefits and proposed equal transit fees for all countries which would range between USD 4 and 50 per tonne of goods as transit fees depending on routes chosen by the user.

"We have submitted the report online and recommended the imposition of charge in line with World Trade Organisation rules," Tariff Commission Chairman Mujibur Rahman told a newspaper yesterday.

The Daily Star, quoting officials familiar with the commission recommendations, said the report acknowledged that under the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and Bangladesh’s 1969 Customs Act the country cannot impose customs duties or tax on transit traffic.

"But there are no restrictions on imposing transit charge on the movement of transit traffic in order to recover various types of costs related to administrative expenses such as costs of customs formalities, customs inspection and charge for use of services," it said.

Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Rajeet Mitter earlier this month expressed his hope that Bangladesh would set a reasonable transit fee to achieve the desired outcome of the transit system.

"It depends on the proposal of Bangladesh government, who has formed a committee to settle the transit fee. India would certainly agree to pay the transit fee fixed by Bangladesh," Mitter told a business chamber function at the southeastern port city of Chittagong.

He, however, added, "expensive transit fees might not bring the desired benefits". The debate on providing transit to India sparked a afresh two months ago when opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party appeared to have revived an old an anti-transit campaign as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is set to allow Indian transports to carry goods to its isolated northeastern states through the country.

"No foreign vehicle would be allowed to go through the country at the cost of the country's interests," she told a party rally after finance minister AMA Muhith said Dhaka would charge India transit fees instead of duties in exchange of offering the transit facilities.