Northeast India has welcomed the Bangladeshi government’s decision to enable the neighbouring country to use Chittagong’s and Mongla’s ports to move goods to and from India.
Finance ministers of both Tripura and Assam have said that opening up the ports will strengthen the connectivity of the Northeastern states, as the ports can be used to transport goods to the states in minimal time.
Previously, on September 17, the cabinet approved a proposed agreement with New Delhi—allowing India to use the Chittagong and Mongla ports.
The agreement suggested Bangladesh’s tax authorities would take the bond equivalent to duties and taxes from Indian companies. Charges, fees and carrying costs will be charged according to the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (Gatt) principle—in addition to regular duty and taxes.
The four suggested routes for transporting the goods are: Chittagong Port to Mongla Port-Agartala via Akhaura; Chittagong to Mongla-Daouki via Tamabil; Chittagong to Mongla-Sutarkandi via Sheola; and Chittagong/Mongla to Bibekbazar via Simantapur.
Several experts have said the agreement will help reduce overall transportation costs in the region, and will also act to cement the goodwill between the two countries.
They emphasized on the benefits Northeast India can reap by using the Chittagong port.
According to Deputy Chief Minister of Tripura Jishnu Debbarman – who is also responsible for the finance portfolio – the usage of Chittagong’s port will bolster Tripura’s trade prospects, and those of Northeast India overall.
“Strong connectivity is mandatory for removing trade barriers and flourishing trade” the chief minister said. “Earlier, the lack of connectivity was extremely disadvantageous, but the Bangladeshi government’s decision to open up the Chittagong port has offered us a possibility of prosperity.”
• The Chittagong port will provide the fastest possible access for a port in Northeast India
• Transportation costs will be reduced drastically due to the faster route
• Cost of living in Northeast India will decrease concurrently with the transportation costs
• Tripura’s trade prospects will flourish with the usage of the Chittagong port
• Small and micro-medium industries in Tripura will register growth due to increased connectivity via the Chittagong port
• The Chittagong port will help increase connectivity within Assam
• Previously, it would take 15-20 days for goods to reach Tripura from Mumbai- via the Chittagong port, it will only take 3-4 days
• Bangladesh will also benefit from the agreement, as the country will earn revenues from the shipments
The Chittagong port, providing the fastest possible access for a port in Northeast India, will help increase connectivity within that region, said Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Small and micro-medium industries will now register growth due to the increase in connectivity via the Chittagong port, Indraneel Bhowmik, associate professor of Economics at Tripura Central University opined.
“There has not been a huge amount of productivity in Northeast India until now,” Indraneel said. “However, small and micro industries will flourish, as strong connectivity is intrinsically required for industry growth.”
The associate professor said the cost of living for the citizens in Northeast India will also decrease concurrently with transportation costs.
“If finished products from this region reach the open market via the Chittagong port, they will sell more due to low costs,” he said. ” If raw materials, as well as finished products, reach us via port, the costs of goods will fall—allowing commoners to reap the dividends.”
The Chittagong port will not only be beneficial for India, but for Bangladesh as well, Special Correspondent for the Telegraph Sekhar Datta said. “Bangladesh will earn a lot of revenue through the shipments passing to the Northeast through the Chittagong port,” he said. “This will strengthen the goodwill between Bangladesh and India.”
At the same time, Datta also expressed his opinion that the issues of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and opening up the ports should not be interlinked.
“Publishing the NRC is the fundamental right of a country,” Datta said. “A country has the right to identify its citizens and non-citizens. The relationship between India and Bangladesh should have no link to the issue of NRC.”
With the usage of the Chittagong port, goods will be able to reach Tripura expeditiously, reducing transportation costs, opined Moti Lal Debnath, president of Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Previously it took 15-20 days for goods to reach Tripura from Mumbai,” said Debnath. “Now, it will only take 3-4 days for those goods to reach us via the Chittagong port. This will reduce transportation costs immensely.”
The agreement will also be advantageous for Bangladesh, as the country will be able to earn revenue from shipments going through Chittagong’s port.
However, Debnath dismissed the notion of opening up the Mongla part, as it has no direct connectivity to the Northeastern states. “The Mongla part is hardly of any avail to us,” he said.