Raheed Ejaz, NewAge, March 5, 2009
Bangladesh and India at a meeting in Dhaka in the third week this month are scheduled to renew the inland water transit and trade deal that will expire on March 31, sources at foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
The Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, struck aiming at boosting the inland water trade between the two neighbours, was renewed last at a meeting in the Indian capital New Delhi on May 1, 2007.
The issue of including Ashuganj as a new port of call, especially for easy transport of Indian goods from Kolkata to Agartala through Bangladesh, will not be incorporated into the deal that will be renewed this month, the sources said.
But during the Dhaka tour of India’s external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee, on February 9, Bangladesh hinted to give its nod to the New Delhi’s proposal of including Ashuganj as a new port of call in the deal.
An official said before finalising the date of renewing the protocol, the technical committee at a meeting will assess all the aspects of the deal by March 10.
The inland water transit protocol was first signed in 1980 under the bilateral trade agreement of 1980 that facilitated mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of the waterways for commerce, maintaining the river routes within each territories a navigable condition.
Later, the protocol was first renewed in 1999, then in 2001 and last in 2007. During the last bilateral meeting at shipping official level in 2007, India had proposed to get Paglahghat in Narayanganj, Meghnaghat in Comilla and Noapara in Jessore, apart from the Ashuganj, as new ports of call.
The two countries now allow each other four water points as ports of call to ferry their goods. The ports are Narayanganj, Mongla, Khulna and Sirajganj for India and Kolkata, Haldia, Karimganj and Pandu for Bangladesh.
In keeping with the protocol, both the countries allow transit for cargo through eight routes, counting both ways.
The Kolkata–Pandu route stretches via Haldia, Raimangal, Chalna, Khulna, Mongla, Kaukhali, Barisal, Hizla, Chandpur, Narayanganj, Aricha, Sirajganj, Bahadurabad, Chilmari and Dhubri.
The Kolkata-Karimganj route stretches via Haldia, Raimangal, Mongla, Kaukhali, Barisal, Hizla, Chandpur, Narayanganj, Bhairab Bazar, Ajmiriganj, Markuli, Sherpur, Fenchuganj and Zakiganj.
Two of the routes are between Rajshahi and Dhulian via Godagari, both ways.
The Karimganj–Pandu route stretches via Zakiganj, Fenchuganj, Sherpur, Markuli, Ajmiriganj, Bhairab Bazar, Narayanganj, Chandpur, Aricha, Sirajganj, Bahadurabad, Chilmari and Dhubri.