India gets access to two Bangladeshi ports, will boost connectivity with North-Eastern region

The central government’s efforts to enhance connectivity between the North-Eastern region and rest of the country has received a shot in the arm after the Bangladeshi cabinet approved a proposed agreement with India enabling India to use the Chattogram and Mongla ports for goods movement to the North-East.

Md Shafiul Alam, Cabinet Secretary of the Bangladesh government said that the agreement will be effective for five years with a provision of auto-renewal for another five years and either of the countries can cancel it with a prior six-month notice. “The decision is another step in improving the friendly relations between Bangladesh and India”, he added further.

“A draft of the communication network being built for connectivity between the Chattogram and Mongla ports has been approved for India’s signing. One of the provisions says that Nepal and Bhutan can be added to the agreement if they wish,” he said.

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The agreement will provide India access to Bangladeshi ports to carry goods to the landlocked North Eastern states in a very short time. Alam said that, however, India would have to follow the international rules and General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) as well as Bangladeshi laws and rules in carrying the goods. The agreement suggested that Bangladesh will collect the charges, fees and carrying cost according to GATT principle in addition to regular duty and taxes. Reportedly, only Bangladeshi vehicles and vessels will be used to carry the Indian goods inside Bangladesh.

According to Dhaka Tribune, Four routes were suggested for the goods movements which are – Chittagong Port/ Mongla Port-Agartala via Akhaura, Chittagong/Mongla-Daouki via Tamabil, Chittagong/ Mongla-Sutarkandi via Sheola and Chittagong/Mongla-Bibekbazar via Simantapur.

Chattogram and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh. Image: Google Earth

The Chattogram port (earlier known as Chittagong) is the busiest seaport on the coastline of Bay of Bengal, which handles around 90% of import-export trade of Bangladesh.  Mongla port is the second largest port of the country and it is located in Bengal Delta.

The proposed draft said that Bangladeshi officials will use the tracking systems like global positioning system (GPS), e-lock and e-seal to identify the goods carrying vessels.

On 6th June 2015, Ministry of Shipping, Road and Highways of India and Ministry of Shipping of Bangladesh had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the proposed route to northeastern states of India via Bangladesh. The agreement involves a multi-modal transport system involving waterways, roadways and railways.

The work on a rail link between Akhaura rail station in Bangladesh and Agartala rail station in India was started earlier this month and this 15 km rail link is expected to be operational by next year. This rail line will provide the rail link between the two countries.

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