Agartala: A consignment of 1005 tonnes of steel rods arrived on Sunday in Tripura from West Bengal through Bangladesh as part of revised ‘Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol’ between the two countries.
The protocol was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June last year.
“A Bangladeshi ship from Kolkata carrying 1005 tonnes of steel rods meant for Tripura governemnt’s Rural Development Department reached Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh on June 15,” an Indian custom official said.
“Bangladeshi trucks then carried the goods from Ashuganj port to Tripura’s Akhaura checkpost, from where the transporter would arrange to have the goods delivered to six places in Tripura,” the customs official said.
Akhaura checkpost, just along Agartala city, is the second largest trading point and land port between India and Bangladesh after the Benapole-Petrapole land port with West Bengal.
Ashuganj port on Meghna river in Bangladesh is about 40 km from Tripura’s capital Agartala.
“Four Bangladeshi trucks arrived here on Sunday. Then Indian trucks carried the freight to their destinations inside Tripura. More such trucks would carry the goods from Ashuganj port to Tripura in subsequent days,” Sujit Roy, the transporting company’s manager, told IANS.
The transit facility with provision of third-country access was formally inaugurated on Thursday at Ashuganj port by Bangladesh Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan in the presence of Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman.
The custom official said Kolkata-Ashuganj-Tripura route cuts the Kolkata-Agartala distance via Siliguri’s ‘chicken neck’ and Assam and Meghalaya from 1,600 km to 500 km.
“The reduced distance substantially cuts transportation costs from mainland India to the northeastern region and the time from 15 days to just 10 days.”
The revised Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol also gives India and Bangladesh the right to use each other’s territory for transiting goods to third countries.
Bangladesh can thus use Indian territory to transit goods to Nepal and Bhutan while India can access Myanmar via Bangladesh.
The official said: “The protocol facilitates trade and development not only between India and Bangladesh but in the entire sub-region facilitating trade and development in the sub-region.”
Earlier, as goodwill gesture, Bangladesh government last year allowed India’s Food Corporation of India to ferry 35,000 tonnes of rice in different phases to Tripura from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh and Kolkata port via Bangladesh, using the Ashuganj river ports and Bangladesh highways.
In 2011-2012, Bangladesh had allowed India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and over-dimensional cargoes through Ashuganj port for the 726-MW Palatana mega power project in southern Tripura.
Both these transits were duty free and as part of goodwill gesture of the Bangladesh government.
India had long been seeking transit and trans-shipment facility to carry goods to northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura — from West Bengal and other parts of India through a shortened route via Bangladesh.