Md Mazadul Hoque;
In the past couple of years, Dhaka and New Delhi are in a race to tighten bilateral relations. The move came aiming to expand trade activities more than that of before. The visionary leaders of both Bangladesh and India had been trying their level best to take the economies forward despite having limitations. Particularly, Bangladesh-India relations between each others’ beggars’ descriptions. Historically, there are no reasons to be forgotten India’s role what it performed during Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war. India is bound to recall Dhaka’s continuous supports also whenever Delhi places proposal for any issues. So, there is no possibility of vanishing long-lasting relations that was developed through a lot of steps undertaken by the subsequent governments in the two countries.
Following the continuous persuasion from Indian side, a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2015. Later, in response to MoU, a much cherished transshipment deal between Dhaka and Delhi was signed in 2018 aiming to use Bangladesh’s two prime seaports – Chattogram and Mongla- by India. The deal said neighboring India to transport goods to its north-eastern states. Bangladesh and India also finalized the standard operating procedure (SoP) in 2019 in this regard. The distance between Kolkata of West Bengal and Agartala in Tripura State through Chicken Neck Corridor is 1,650 kilometers. India has become benefited much from transshipment deal since India discovered short distance for carrying its goods through Bangladeshi seaports.
According to the SoP, four road, rail and water routes are expected to be used to transport the goods that would be unloaded at dockyard of Chattogram and Mongla sea ports. Agartala (Tripura) via Akhaura, Dawki (Meghalaya) via Tamabil; Sutarkandi (Assam) via Sheola and Srimantpur (Tripura)via Bibirbazar. Besides, landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura states are allowed to access open sea trade routes through Chattogram and Mongla ports.
Following the deal, the first Indian ship -MV Shejyoti, carrying four containers, reached Chattogram port in a brief time. The ship began its journey from Haldia port, India.
After a long gap of two years, Dhaka-Delhi transshipment deal started executing on trial basis. Under the deal, India will experience lower transport cost of goods heading to Agartala through Akhaura of Bangladesh. On the contrary, Bangladesh is expected to generate revenue income more for permitting these facilities to India. So, both countries are economically benefited much centering the deal. According to report published in a daily, export to India from Bangladesh was US $361 million in 2012 where the volume increased to US $873 million in the first half of 2018. However, Bangladesh now exports goods worth $1.5 billion to India and imports worth over $ 8.5 billion from India.
Besides, India-Bangladesh 5th Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting, held in New Delhi in 2019, discussed a lot of issues aiming to bolster ties. The agreements, that were signed, were MoU on mid-career training of 1800 Bangladesh civil servants, MoU between AYUSH and the Ministry of Health of Bangladesh on cooperation in the field of medicinal plants, MoU between Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh and Central Bureau of Investigation of India, and between Hiranandani Group and Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority to facilitate investments in the Indian Economic Zone in Mongla.
According to media report, at the beginning of current calendar year, full swing activities were done aiming to increase mutual trade related benefited under Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
The two sides are expected to hope that bilateral trade might go up significantly from the current $10 billion. The two sides had discussions on a wide range of issues of mutual interests including regional connectivity, up-gradation of infrastructure for border trading, Border haats, CEPA, India-Bangladesh CEOs’ Forum, sharing of trade data, regional connectivity initiatives, and facilitation of business visas. A seminar styled ‘Indian Budget 2020- Stimulus for Indo-Bangla Growth’ arranged by High Commission of India, Dhaka also put emphasize on bilateral trade between the countries.
In view of deals signed in past one decade, Dhaka–New Delhi relation never comes down. But, speaking with a heavy heart, a few long standing pending issues should be resolved right now. Trial of border killings, that took place along India-Bangladesh from time to time, is still pending. The much discussed issue of Teesta water sharing needs to solve. Bangladesh had been facing untold troubles since long regarding Teesta issue. Two economies are advancing economically fast, no doubt. Two nations are expressing happiness and grief each other. So, there are no reasons to be waited for resolving pending issues that would surely bring economic prosperity. Rail communications with reopening closed routes between two countries had so far been developed as part of expressing solidarity.
Apart from goods, Bangladeshi holiday makers had been travelling India through river and sea route that began recently.
So, overall developments did not come within hours. It took some years. Even though, Indo-Bangla cultural programes are being arranged jointly for the past couple of years. It signifies that we are the same in nature, in attitude, in culture. The present time demands to work very closely for economic interest. Proudly speaking, India and Bangladesh are ahead in terms of foreign exchange reserve among South Asian countries. India ranked first and Bangladesh placed second position in respect of foreign currency reserve.
My suggestion is that the concerned authorities might take decision to increase duties and other administrative charges related to transshipment affairs aiming to generate revenue income more. So, forgetting unnecessary issues held in the past, India-Bangladesh should join a race for expanding newer trade opportunities in the days to come.