India will soon be using Bangladesh’s sea ports for cargo transportation as the two countries are preparing to formalise an agreement later this month. The deal will allow India duty-free access to the ports for transportation to its northeastern states.
Though an exact date was not specified, Bangladesh’s Shipping Secretary Abdus Samad said that India can start using Chattogram and Mongla ports immediately after the deal is signed, but not before a Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) is drawn.
The announcement was made in a press conference ahead of ‘South Asia Maritime and Logistical Forum 2018’ on October 7, 2018. Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, who chaired the meet the press programme, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will open the international forum that will take place from October 9-10.
Secretary Samad said, once the deal comes to effect, India will not pay customs duty as per the principles of GATT (General Agreement on Tariff and Trade). However, other fees and charges will be applicable for transported through the ports to its northeastern seven sister states – all of which will be specified in the SOP.
The two countries had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the use of the two ports during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June, 2015. Bangladesh’s cabinet on September 17 approved a draft agreement on the use of the two ports. Cabinet Secretary Shafiul Alam had said Nepal and Bhutan can be added to it if they wish to use the two ports.
The new instrument will be signed for five years, but it can be extended for another five years. However, any side can cancel the agreement after giving six-month notice and can suspend the deal if a necessity arises. Should any problem arise, several committees of both the countries would resolve it.
As per the deal, Indian goods can be transported through four entry points — Akhaura in Bangladesh and Agartala in India; Tamabil in Sylhet and Dauki in India’s Meghalaya; Sheola in Sylhet and Sutarkandi in Assam; and Bibirbazar in Cumilla and Srimantapur in Tripura.