India has offered Bangladesh free transportation of goods to any third country using its land ports, airports and seaports. Such arrangement is better known as transit or transshipment. This proposal was made recently during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India.
If the proposal is implemented, Bangladesh will get some additional benefits in transporting goods mainly to Nepal and Bhutan. Cargo trucks from Bangladesh can go to Nepal and Bhutan via India. The concerned people think that the export of products will increase in both countries.
At present, Bangladesh cannot take goods to any third country using any land port, sea port and airport in India. As Nepal and Bhutan are landlocked countries, there is no opportunity to transport goods by sea. Bangladesh will be able to take advantage of India’s land and air transport of goods using its airports. At present, cargo trucks from Nepal and Bhutan use Indian territory to reach the Bangladesh border to transport both import and export goods.
Apart from this, there is an opportunity to expand trade with those two countries with India’s transit and transshipment facilities by rail through Chilahati-Haldibari and Birol border. Bagdogra Airport near Siliguri in West Bengal is also available.
In 2015, free movement of traffic between Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan was argued. All countries except Bhutan have ratified it. Under that agreement, there is free movement of passenger and cargo vehicles. Protocols and regulations on how traffic will operate have already been drafted. Now India’s transit and transshipment proposition has taken on a new dimension in this initiative.
In this regard, Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Special Fellow Mostafizur Rahman told Prothom Alo, “India’s proposal has increased the opportunity for trade growth in Nepal and Bhutan for the time being. In 2015, the free movement agreement was signed. All the countries concerned would get benefits together if the agreement was implemented. Trucks carrying goods from Bangladesh could have gone directly to Nepal using the territory of India.’ For example, once due to congestion at the capital’s airport, exports were made through the Kolkata airport under special arrangements.
The market for Bangladeshi products is expanding in Nepal and Bhutan. Bangladesh’s Pran-RFL Group, Walton, furniture company Hatil, among others, export products to Nepal. Exports include motorcycles, refrigerators, televisions, furniture, food products, etc. On the other hand, various products including juice, drinks, clothes go to Bhutan.
PRAN-RFL Group is one of the top exporters in Nepal. Kamruzzaman Kamal, marketing director of this group, told Prothom Alo that if India’s proposal is known in detail, it can be said how much the exporters will benefit. If cargo trucks from Bangladesh can go directly to Nepal, the cost, time and hassle will be reduced. He also said that now we have to go to the border of Bangladesh and unload the goods from one truck to another truck. Shipments of goods are repeatedly opened at various borders. There is a danger of spoiling the quality of the product. Nepal now exports goods worth 8 to 1 million dollars per month. India’s proposed transit or transshipment smoothening the journey will further boost exports.
If you want to export goods from Bangladesh to Nepal by land, first you have to take consignment of goods at Banglabandha land port. From there, by Nepal or Indian trucks, the goods go to the Kakarvita border of Nepal, crossing about 34 km of that country’s land, and the Indian water tank. In this way the product reaches Kathmandu or any other place by crossing the border of India. By land, goods are imported from Nepal in the same way and in the same process. Pulses are mainly imported from Nepal.
Again, to export goods to Bhutan, goods trucks go to Burimari border. Later, the truck crossed the border and entered Bhutan through the Jayanagar-Phuentshiling border crossing about 90 km of Indian territory.
According to the sources of the Nepal Embassy in Dhaka, in the fiscal year 2020-21, goods worth 1 thousand 67 crore Nepali rupees have been exported from Bangladesh. On the other hand, goods worth Rs. 67 crore have arrived in Bangladesh from Nepal.