India-Bangladesh to sign pact to allow northeast to avail latter’s ports

Chittagong Port (left) and Mongla port (right)

Avishek Sengupta

Guwahati, October 11: India and Bangladesh are expected to sign a transhipment pact on October 25 to allow northeast avail the latter’s ports for trade purposes, revealed a highly placed source in the Bangladesh High Commission to India.

The pact will allow the sharing of port and river network of both the neighbouring countries for export and import of products from the port through road, rail and river connections.

“With the signing of the pact, northeast will be able to avail at least two ports — Chittagong and Mongla — in Bangladesh. This will allow India to import products shipped to the Bangladesh ports and then transport through the roadways, railways and inland waterways. Similarly, northeast can export products through the Bangladesh ports too,” the source said.

Bangladesh’s busiest port, Chittagong port in the southeastern part of the country is just 215 km from Tripura capital Agartala while the Mongla port, the second busiest located in Bagerhat district of southwestern Bangladesh is about 435 km from Agartala.

The source further said, “After signing of the pact, both the neighbouring country is also expected to share at least 54 river links to transport their products through inland waterways.”

When asked, Bangladesh’s Assistant High Commissioner at Guwahati, Shah Mohammad Tanvir Monsur said “With the establishment of such port routes it will benefit both Northeast region of India and Bangladesh equally. This region will be able to transport products in a cost-effective way in bulk such as cement, limestones, textiles among others.”

He, however, said, “Both the government is in agreement regarding such trade possibilities. It is still in the talks stage.”

Northeast currently avails the Kolkata port for bulk transport that is about 771 km from Srirampur in Dhubri the nearest town to West Bengal. It is more than 3000 km for Tripura and Mizoram.

When signed, the pact is supposed to scrape down the existing India-Bangladesh coastal shipping agreement that covers only origin-destination cargo between the two neighbouring countries.

With the signing of the pact, however, India can use the Bangladesh port and further transport the products through riverine networks or roadways to bring into the region.

At least four states of northeast — Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam — share a total of 1741 km of border with Bangladesh.

Assam additional chief secretary industry and commerce, Ravi Kapoor said, “India has a trade relation worth 9 billion US Dollar with Bangladesh in which, northeast despite having such an extensive border with Bangladesh only contributes a minuscule 2-3 per cent. Whereas, Northeast region has historically traded through Bangladesh since the colonial period up until 1947 that has choked the trade networks of this region since then. Port connections with Bangladesh will open up new horizons for trade in this region.”