Bangladesh on Saturday signed a number of deals allowing India to use the country’s both sea ports and river ports for facilitating transit of Indian goods through its territory. Officials of the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on use of Chittagong port and Mongla port by India in presence of visiting Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina at the Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka. Two agreements and two protocols were signed on operation of passenger bus service between Kolkata and Agartala via Dhaka and Dhaka and Guwahati in Assam via Sylhet and Shillong. Hasina and Modi, who was being accompanied by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, jointly flagged off the bus services that would significantly reduce the distance between Kolkata and northeastern states. ‘We launched two bus services that will connect our citizens more easily and our two nations more closely,’ Modi said. The ‘connectivity’ by road, rail and sea between the two countries would increase, he mentioned. Earlier in the morning, Modi arrived in Dhaka for a two-day maiden visit, mainly for ‘connectivity and concluding the land boundary agreement.’ Besides, the ‘Coastal Shipping Agreement’ that would allow transportation of goods by river and sea cargo vessels, along the Bay, between the two countries, and the amended Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, incorporating a provision that ‘third countries’ like Nepal and Bhutan could be included in the communication system for transshipment of goods, were also signed between Bangladesh shipping secretary and the Indian foreign secretary in presence of the two premiers. Asked if India would require to pay any charges for operating bus services between Kolkata and Agartala through the Bangladesh territory, Bangladesh cabinet secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said after a cabinet meeting recently that neither the agreement nor the protocol envisaged imposition of any charges for the bus services that would bring down the distance between Kolkata and Agartala by road from 1650km to around 500km. Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar said earlier in New Delhi that key factors of the visit ‘are connectivity’ and concluding the land boundary agreement. Asked by New Age if India would require paying any charges for operating through Bangladesh road, railway, rivers and coastal areas, foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali said the main agreements and the protocols ‘are policy decisions’ from both the countries. ‘Imposition of any charges will be settled in detail later through mutual discussion,’ he said. Centre for Policy Dialogue, a local think-tank, on Friday said that Bangladesh should impose service charges on the transshipment and transit facilities proposed for its neighbour India. India has long been pressing for transit and transshipment facilities through Bangladesh to establish easier communication from mainland to its northeast states plugged with decades old movement by the separatist groups.
Source: New Age