Bangladesh has sought access to Kolkata port for carrying out exports and imports, according to sources.

The access may help Bangladesh attract Indian FDI in designated SEZs on the West Bengal border.

A formal presentation in this regard was made during the Commerce Secretary-level bilateral talks in Dhaka on February 7 and 8.

The proposal that came through bilateral platform will contribute to the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) sub-regional initiative.

Nepal and Bhutan have access to Indian ports through bilateral framework.

Both the Himalayan countries also access Bangladesh through Indian territories. While Nepal accesses Bangladesh by road, Bhutan uses both road and inland waterway. Under BBIN initiatives, India has better and wider logistics infrastructure to help both countries access Chittagong and Mongla port in Bangladesh through India.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, granted India’s North-Eastern States access to Chittagong port through Tripura.

Bilateral inland water transport treaty was expanded to help Tripura access Ashugunj river port in Bangladesh. This will help Tripura access Kolkata port through Bangladesh. This, along with road transit and the upcoming rail transit through Bangladesh, will reduce distance between India’s North-East and Kolkata significantly.

What was missing in this whole design is Bangladesh’s stake in Indian ports or logistics infrastructure.

Chittagong port suffers from capacity constraint, more importantly due to poor rail network and over dependence on road movement leads to high logistics costs in Bangladesh.

As a result industrial and commercial activities are mostly centered around Chittagong and Dhaka — on the eastern part of the country. By asking for access rights to Kolkata port, Bangladesh is trying to correct this policy gap.

As rail and inland water connectivity between the two neighbours widens access to Kolkata port, there is potential for attracting Indian investments in western Bangladesh.