DHAKA, FEB 1: India now hopes to ship 35,000 metric tons of food grain from Kolkata to Tripura using Ashuganj port, despite the fact that the trial run period on the Bangladeshi facility has expired.
The Indian government has placed a request with Bangladesh to allow use of the shipment facilities on sovereign territory, in order to deliver food to refugees from rebel factions in the country’s northeastern states. Experts within Bangladesh have suggested that, until the terms of a transshipment policy, including service charges and other guidelines, can be finalised, Bangladesh should deny India frequent use of the Ashuganj facility.
In a letter sent on January 30, from the Indian High Commission to Dhaka, to Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, shipping ministry, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), and the National Board of Review, the Indian government has sought permission for transshipment, as soon as possible, and without additional documentation, like risk bonds.
“We seek the facility, as we need to send grain on an emergency basis,” the letter said.
The Prime Minister’s economic adviser, Moshiur Rahman, told The Independent that the Bangladeshi government had, in principal, agreed to transshipment in the past.
The issue, this time, involves changes in the transit and transshipment policies currently underway. Earlier, Indian administrators had used the existing transshipment policies, to move huge volumes of metals for the construction of a power plant, through Bangladeshi territory, without paying any fees.
Dr M. Rahmatullah, former director of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the government should suspend transport of Indian goods through Bangladeshi territory, until new terms are legally established.
Previously, the commerce ministry had formed a committee, along with Tariff Commission chairman Mujibur Rahman, to submit reports on routes and to assess the volume of traffic. The final report has been submitted to the cabinet by the committee, with approval expected by March.
Under the core committee, the government formed five subcommittees to finalise routes, assess infrastructure requirements, analyse transit, and the economic and legal issues involved in establishing a new transshipment policy with India.
In the 2009-10 budget, the present government imposed tariffs of Tk. 1,000 to Tk. 10,000 for other countries, to transport goods through Bangladesh.
Following the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO), Bangladeshi customs seized two Indian vessels that refused to pay the fee. Under significant pressure from the Indian government, Bangladesh eventually suspended the fees, until new guidelines were established.
Source: The Independent