Dhaka offers Kathmandu port facility for more trade

Dhaka offers Kathmandu port facility for more tradeDhaka, Dec 23 - After a nod from India, Bangladesh is moving to open a new land route to Nepal and offer it the use of its Mongla port for export of goods to a third country.

Dhaka has sent the draft of a deal to Kathmandu, ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India next month, to activate a 1976 transit treaty that would allow landlocked Nepal the use of Mongla port in the Bay of Bengal.

Nepal has so far been exporting its goods through Indian ports.

Bangladesh government officials here say Dhaka and Kathmandu are poised to sign the deal to activate the transit agreement, which will also allow goods-laden trucks and trains to enter each others' territory.

"Positive signs are also there that India will give landlocked Nepal the long-awaited approval on using a patch of territory as transit for transporting goods to Bangladesh," communications ministry officials told bdnews24. com website.

Bangladesh and Nepal must both have Indian approval to cross its territory before they implement the deal aimed at increasing trade volume between them.

India has in the past been for security reasons hesitant to allow this transit through the 23-km corridor, called `chicken's neck' in northern West bengal.

Delhi in September assured Dhaka of providing transit facilities to reach both Nepal and Bhutan through Indian territories.

In return, Dhaka agreed to allow India to carry heavy equipment via Bangladesh to one of its northeastern states to set up a power plant there.

"The issue of third-country trade between Bangladesh and Nepal, and Bangladesh-Bhutan will be discussed during the prime minister's upcoming Delhi visit," Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes told the website.

"We hope the deal with Nepal will be signed," he said.

The volume of Bangladesh-Nepal bilateral trade is negligible and the balance is highly in favour of Nepal. Bangladesh's exports to Nepal were worth only $8.1 million against imports amounting to $69 million in fiscal 2008-09.

Bangladesh and landlocked Nepal in 1976 signed transit agreement to boost trade. But the deal could not become operational without Delhi's approval.

"Our ministry has drafted a deal to make the transit trade operational with Nepal," said Naim Ahmed Khan, a communications ministry official.

Railway sources say they have sent a draft of a rail transit agreement involving Bangladesh, India and Nepal to Indian authorities for finalisation.

As per the rail transit deal, India will allow Bangladesh Railway to use Rahanpur (Bangladesh)-Singhabad (India) rail route to reach India's border stations Jogobani and Rauxal. (IANS)