Bangladesh and India are set to hold meeting next month in Delhi to discuss amendment to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) in a bid to facilitate bilateral trade through the river routes.
Shipping secretaries of the both the countries are scheduled to meet in Delhi from February 27 to March 2 next to discuss pros and cons of the protocol that will expire on March 31, 2014.
Last year, both the governments extended the river protocol by three years without any amendments and without implementig proposals of the experts and relevant government departments.
Shipping ministry will hold a meeting today (Tuesday) to discuss the agendas of the scheduled meeting.
The PIWTT, signed in 1972, under which Indian cargoes are allowed to transport goods from Kolkata to Tripura through Bangladesh waterways.
Both the governments held a series of meetings and prepared their respective proposals on amendment to the protocol but it remained unchanged.
The extended period will give both sides an opportunity for further consultation with a view to effecting such changes consistent with the framework agreement on cooperation for development, said a senior shipping ministry official.
India intends to use Ashuganj to Akhaura transit under the river protocol. In September last, three Indian ships used the Ashuganj transit point on trial-run to carry goods to its north-eastern states.
The facilities remained suspended from October 26 last as Bangladesh government felt the necessity of infrastructure development at the Ashuganj river port.
India is to provide Tk 55 million annually to Bangladesh for maintenance of the river route.
Customs wing of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) had earlier proposed mandatory inclusion of bank guarantee for transit and imposition of transit fee amounting to Tk 580 for each tonne of goods.
NBR had slapped transshipment/transit fee of Tk 10,000 for per TEU (a twenty-foot equivalent unit) container and Tk 1000 per tonne for bulk consignment. But the order was postponed later.
A senior NBR official said extension of the protocol for such a long period under same rules and provisions is really frustrating as Bangladesh will be loser for this.
Long-term renewal of the protocol will help India enjoy the transit and transshipment facilities for a long-time without paying any fees, he said.
"Infrastructure will be developed soon to resume transit facilities for India. But the ships should not use the transit without fees," the official said.
International affairs adviser to the Prime Minister Gowher Rizvi said the government will have to know the cost of infrastructure development prior to fixation of rational fees for use of transit.
"It is difficult to determine the transit fees before development of the infrastructure. Already, the government has taken a move to develop the Ashuganj port to handle the containers for transit," he said.
A government core committee on transit and transshipment submitted a detailed report to the Prime Minister's office last year with modalities to offer transit for the neighbouring countries including India. The recommendations of the core committee remained shelved so far due to lack of proper initiatives of the government high-ups.
Editor : Moazzem Hossain,
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