A new horizon has opened for Bangladesh and India, after two neighbouring countries have agreed to expand allow mutual connectivity specially through land and water routes for boosting trade.
After the signing of the landmark accords on coastal shipping and the opening up of Chittagong and Mongla ports for India the volume of trade is expected to rise dramatically in near future.
However the existing poor infrastructure in Bangladesh needs to be improved to materialize the ambitious plan to boost the bilateral trade. The infrastructural development in Bangladesh needs immediate attention of the policy planners and politicians.
With the additional credit of $2.0 billion provided by India, the capability of the trade volume and commerce is expected to be augmented, according to official sources in Dhaka.
During the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Dhaka 22 deals including Coastal Shipping for two-way trade through ports; renewal of 1972 Protocol on Inland Waterways Transit and Trade (PIWTT) for using their waterways for commerce; using of Chittagong and Mongla Ports by India for movement of goods to and from India were signed.
The agreements will help to greatly reduce not only the time in shipping goods but also costs, besides making optimum use of the ports, inland waterways and roads.
The Chittagong and Mongla ports, along with Kolkata port and Haldia dock system, are located in the Ganga delta. According to the agreement, the two Bangladesh ports can be used by India to ship goods to its landlocked states in the northeast - to Agartala in Tripura, to Dawki in Meghalaya or to Sutarkandi in Assam - either through waterways, rail or road.
An official said, the agreement on use of Chittagong and Mongla ports was inked in 2011, but after the Teesta agreement fell through, Bangladesh backed out of signing the deal.
Bangladesh is planning to construct a bridge with Indian assistance on the Feni river that will connect with Sabroom, in Feni and also located in south Tripura district, on the India-Bangladesh border.
The bridge will provide direct connectivity between Chittagong port, which has been upgraded by China, to Sabroom, about 75 km away, via a new road being built from Chittagong port city.
Another connectivity link is the 15-km railway between Akhaura and Agartala in Brahmanbaria district of Bangladesh, which is to be completed in 2017.
Akhaura has a rail link to Chittagong too. When the Akhaura - Agartala railway link is ready, goods brought to Chittagong port can be carried by rail directly to Agartala.
The north-eastern Indian states can also export and import goods through the Chittagong port with less cost and also save time.
Despite Bangladesh and India share over 1,000 km of riverine border, the river trade traffic between the two neighbours takes place mostly on the congested land border. However, the sea trade route has not been used much.
The two trans-border bus services on the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati route inaugurated during Modi's visit are also set to boost connectivity and people-to-people links.
Earlier, travelling from Kolkata to Agartala, a distance of 1,675 km, would take over 30 hours. The new trans-border route, linking Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala is set to cut distance by over 600 km.