Bangladesh to ‘soon’ grant India access to Chittagong port

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 19, 2018

This is a new area of cooperation, says Bangladesh Foreign Secretary

Addressing a long pending demand by India, Bangladesh will “soon” grant India direct access to its Chittagong port even as both sides work on forward linkages.

Bangladesh is working on a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which will ensure India direct access to the port, which is significant in boosting bilateral and intra-regional trade.

“Hopefully, we will be realising this soon. We are working on SOPs and forward linkages on other aspects that go beyond just access to Chittagong port,” Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque told BusinessLine.

Recently, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggested creation of a joint consortium between both the countries in an effort to ensure better use of the port.

India had been asking for a direct access to the Chittagong Port for nearly five years. Once approved, this will help Indian industry and exporters save millions of dollars by sending direct shipments to Bangladesh and by using the Chittagong port as a transit hub to access other Southeast Asian destinations.

Last year, both neighbours had signed an MoU on use of Chittagong and Mongla ports. Haque said India and Bangladesh are also working on a joint maritime cooperation — a first in the history of bilateral ties.

Joint task force

“This is a new area of cooperation. A joint task force has been created to work on the modalities, which is expected to hold its first meeting in the first week of March,” he said.

Haque added that this issue was extensively discussed during his meetings with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June last year, an MoU was signed on the Blue Economy and Maritime Cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, which identified eight areas of collaboration.

This was part of the joint declaration – Notun Projonmo, Nayi Disha – that sought to take bilateral ties to the next level. Last year, both neighbours also inked the Land Boundary Agreement.

However, the issue of sharing the water of Teesta river remains a bone of contention.

“We are optimistic on Teesta,” Haque said, adding that “all aspects of water management” was discussed during his meeting with Amarjit Singh, Special Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, on Tuesday.

Published on February 02, 2016

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