Reported on: October 09, 2011 15:14 PM
Reported in: National
Dhaka, Oct 9 (UNB) - The concept of transit should be re-visited and Bangladesh should go for Transshipment Agreement to help India gain access to its seven north-eastern states.
The views were expressed in the editorial of the July-September quarterly issue of `ICCB News Bulletin’ released Sunday by International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh (ICCB.
It said the much trumpeted visit of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had mixed reaction both in India and Bangladesh among public leaders, civil society, diplomats and businesses, as the two main issues - sharing of the Teesta water and the transit protocol could not be agreed upon.
However, the MoUs signed between the two countries during the visit have had a number of encouraging promises, which if implemented, may bring in benefit to both as well as Nepal and Bhutan.
According to recent ADB estimate, the ICCB news bulletin mentioned Bangladesh may earn US$ 50 million per year from giving transit, while transshipment concept could be the best option for both
Bangladesh and India.
It said the practice of transshipment has been in operation throughout the world ever since trade expanded beyond borders and as such, an agreement to this end will resolve the issue of long-awaited transit facilities being requested by India.
“Such a treaty compared to the proposed transit plan will generate enhanced economic activity of several dimensions including creation of employment and business opportunity as well as ensure security concern of Bangladesh. In the event of transit, such a huge economic benefit will be completely denied to Bangladesh.”
According to some experts, postponement of the Transit Agreement could be a blessing in disguise as it will give Bangladesh government time to re-visit the benefits to be derived from such a treaty, said the editorial of ICCB news bulletin.
“Now the government can undertake cost-benefit analysis. Apparently, the transit facilities will give more benefits to India’s seven states in the north-east as the distance and time for transportation
of goods will be reduced to almost one-third and thus save huge costs.”
“Indian producers will thus be able to sell their products in the region at a lesser price and consequently, Bangladeshi businesses will lose opportunities for expansion of trade to eastern India,” it said.
It has been mentioned in the past, on various occasions, in support of the transit facilities that Bangladesh will earn hundreds of million of dollars a year from India as transit fees and related
activities, the editorial mentioned.
But, a research finding by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) recently stated that Bangladesh could expect no more than US$ 2.3 billion in 30 years by giving transit to India. This is really a pittance
compared to investment required to be made for infrastructure development within the territory of Bangladesh.
In case of transit to India, it is unknown who will pay for the development of massive infrastructure of multi-billion dollar and its regular maintenance when Indian cargoes start rolling on them.
In the proposed transit plan, Indian trucks would be allowed to crisscross the territory of Bangladesh; while Bangladeshi trucks would have to stop at Indian border. This is, in fact, an asymmetric connectivity plan.
India has sought transit facilities to its north-eastern states through road, railway routes and ports in Bangladesh. India also has opened up rail and surface routes for transit to link Nepal and Bhutan with Bangladesh. It is claimed that transit fees from Nepal and Bhutan would bring good revenue for Bangladesh.
But consider the facts: Bhutan's GDP is less than $2 billion and Nepal's economy is not big either. Besides, their economies are inextricably integrated with Indian economy. It is unlikely that a
significant volume of cargo from Nepal or Bhutan (to & fro) would go through Bangladesh simply because they don't manufacture much exportable goods, the editorial of ICCB news bulletin said.
“The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the development partners see Bangladeshi gains too, from better roads, ports, railways and much-needed trade. In that event, movement of Indian goods from one part to another, by the Bangladeshi transport system could accrue huge economic benefit to Bangladesh and at the same time resolve long-awaited Indian request for transporting goods through Bangladesh to save time and money.”
Besides, it said, in case of transshipment, India would not be required to pay any “Transit Fees”.