To boost trade, Dhaka seeks access to Kolkata port

The inland water transport pact will help Tripura access Kolkata port through Bangladesh   -  CV Subrahmanyam

Bangladesh hopes move will draw Indian investments into its western region

Dhaka, February 20

Bangladesh has sought access to the Kolkata port to carry out export-import activities, according to sources. The access may help Bangladesh attract Indian investments in designated Special Economic Zoness on the West Bengal border.

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

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

Nepal and Bhutan have access to Indian ports through the bilateral framework. Both the Himalayan countries also access Bangladesh through Indian territories. While Nepal accesses Bangladesh by road, Bhutan uses both road and inland waterways.

Under the BBIN initiatives, India has better and wider logistics infrastructure to help both the countries access the Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh through India.

Quid pro quo

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

The bilateral inland water transport treaty has been expanded to help Tripura access the Ashugunj river port in Bangladesh. This will help Tripura to access Kolkata port through Bangladesh. This, coupled with road transit and the upcoming rail transit through Bangladesh, will reduce the distance between India’s North-East and Kolkata significantly. What was missing in this design is Bangladesh’s stake in Indian ports or logistics infrastructure.

Dhaka didn’t ask for it as it has a (low-draft) seaport at Chittagong and is planning to set up deep draft port(s).

Capacity constraint

The truth, however, is chittagong port is suffering from capacity constraints.

More importantly, due to a poor rail network and over dependence on road movement, the logistics cost is high in Bangladesh.

As a net result, industrial and commercial activities are mostly centered around Chittagong and Dhaka — in the eastern part of the country.

By claiming access rights to Kolkata port, Bangladesh is trying to correct this policy gap. As rail connections and inland water connectivity between the two neighbours widen, access to Kolkata port can add to the potential of attracting Indian investments in Western Bangladesh.

Published on February 20, 2018



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