The government is going ahead with its plan to introduce a cargo train service between Bangladesh and Nepal to augment business transactions between the two countries.
This arrangement will also enable Kathmandu business people to transport import-export goods by train to and from Mongla and Chattogram ports.
Commerce ministry officials said Nepal offered Bangladesh to introduce the freight train service between the two neighbours.
The government responded to the proposal positively and is going to declare the Rohanpur railway station in north-western district Chapainawabganj as the port of call.
The Ministry of Commerce has completed the necessary paperwork and is waiting for cabinet approval.
Kathmandu wants to get connected with Chattogram and Mongla through a route from Nepal's Birgunj to India's Raxaul-Singhabad to Bangladesh's Rohanpur. The inter-ministerial meeting already gave the go-ahead to the route, Additional Commerce Secretary (FTA Wing) Sharifa Khan has told The Business Standard.
Although the commerce ministry has also got the green signal from the Bangladesh Railway, the ministry is preparing the proposal to place it before the cabinet meeting after law ministry vetting.
"We are working on the proposal. The next operation will begin once the cabinet approves it," Commerce Secretary Dr Md Jafar Uddin told The Business Standard Monday.
In the meantime, the commerce secretary said signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries has also almost been finalised.
Officials said schedules of the freight train will be finalised after declaring Rohanpur as the port of call. So, it is not possible to specify now when the cargo train service will begin.
Nepal basically conducts its export-import through Kolkata port of India. The country transports its goods to and from Bangladesh through Birol and Banglabandha border points.
Carrying the goods by railroad will reduce the cost of export-import by road transportations.
Commerce ministry officials said six Bangladeshi border points including Birol, Benapole, Chilahati and Banglabandha were declared as ports of call under the Trade and Transit Agreement signed by Dhaka and Kathmandu in 1976.
The two neighbours once declared Birol-Radhikapur point as port of call, but abandoned it later.
During the 2010 India visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the deal for Dhaka-Kathmandu cargo rail service using Indian territory was signed. Nepal subsequently finalised its deal with India to use the latter's land for the train service.
The 10-kilometre Rohanpur-Singhabad rail route has connected Bangladesh to West Bengal's Malda district. Commerce ministry officials said export-import of Nepal through Mongla port will get a boost if the cabinet gives the proposal a go-ahead.
They hope the cargo train service will also augment the business transactions between the two countries.
A commerce ministry official said the current trade between Bangladesh and Nepal is too little. Bangladesh exported goods worth $38 million to Nepal in the 2018-19 fiscal year while its imports were worth $14 million.
Jute products, batteries, readymade garments, toiletries and medicines dominate Dhaka's export to Kathmandu.