India signs MoU with Bangladesh for transit facilities to North-Eastern region
A bilateral treaty signed between Dhaka and New Delhi will facilitate the transport of Indian equipment to a power plant being set up in India's Tripura state, abutting Bangladesh.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Bangladeshi and Indian officials at the shipping ministry office here Tuesday, The Daily Star newspaper reported.
This is the first ever multi-modal transit accord that Bangladesh has signed, allowing access by land -- this was the norm during the British era and till 1965.
India has been seeking from Bangladesh greater transit facilities to reach its northeastern region.
The issue is a sensitive one here with the opposition parties terming any transit to India as "a sell-out".
With this signing, Bangladesh implemented a clause of the 50-point joint communique issued Jan 12 during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India.
India will not pay any fees or service charges for this transit even though it would be using Bangladesh's rivers and roads. However, it has agreed to provide Bangladesh Taka 255 million ($3.6 million) for the development of Ashuganj river port terminal and provide 49 km of roads.
According to the MoU, Indian cargo will start from West Bengal's Raimongal and enter Bangladesh at Angtihara and go up to Ashuganj river port by inland waterways. The cargo would then be moved to Akhaura on very large lorries pulling long trailers.
A total of 96 Over-Dimensional Cargoes (ODCs) will be carried for the Palatana power project in Tripura. The plant would generate 726 megawatts.
Repair and renovation work of the Ashuganj port and road construction will start this month and be completed by next December.
The road from Ashuganj to Sonardi via Sarail, Brahmanbaria, Sultanpur and Akhaura is too narrow for transporting large cargos efficiently and it will be widened to 18 metres.
Chief Engineer of the Roads and Highways Department Azizur Rahman and Senior Adviser and Director of ONGC Tripura Power Company R.K. Madan signed the MoU.
The Indian company is a subsidiary of the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC).
A.K. Hazarika, an ONGC official, said the Indian government is investing Rs.45 billion ($984 million) in the plant and Rs.10 billion ($218 million) for the exploration of gas.
"This is a great help for India and we look forward to more help from Bangladesh for the development of India's northeast region," he said before the signing.
The MoU stays valid until June 2012.
Replying to questions, Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said India would not pay any extra charges.
"Why will they pay charge twice? They are constructing the road which we need urgently," he said.
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