Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is on an official visit to India. In a meeting with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated three projects and signed seven pacts including the terms for the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh as a transit facility for moving goods to and from the eastern part of India.
The Business Standard spoke to Dr Muhamamd Yunus of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and Dr Ashikur Rahman of the Policy Research Institute (PRI) on this issue.
Dr Mohammad Yunus
Senior Research Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS)
The pact signed over India's use of Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh as a transit facility for moving goods to and from the eastern part of India has been on the table for discussions since 2009 when Manmohan Singh was prime minister of India. It was the continuation of that plan.
This agreement overusing these ports is a very good step forward. When the country has the potential to develop through the ports, there is no use in stopping it. Singapore is the perfect example of how a country can become rich by utilising their ports.
But the government must ensure the profitability of the ports through terms and conditions. We have to make sure that the extra expenses we incur by India's usage of the ports are shouldered by India through appropriate tariffs.
Both Bangladesh and India have reiterated a stance against crimes and terrorism, and have promised to ensure that miscreants do not use border areas for illegal activities. Both India and Bangladesh should be on the same page, making sure that no criminal from India gets refuge in Bangladesh or the other way around.
The pact signed about withdrawing water from the Feni River will go towards providing drinking water to the people of Tripura. It is important to ensure that the withdrawal of water doesn't impact Bangladesh badly because this river is not large like the Padma or Meghna.
The killing of Bangladeshis by the Indian BSF at the border has been a matter of grave concern for Bangladesh for a long time. They can arrest a thief or a criminal and bring him to book. But shooting him to death at the border is very primitive.
If a criminal is caught, India should return him to Bangladesh and we will provide justice. But shooting down people in this modern time is very painful to witness.
India has repeatedly promised that there will be no more deaths at the border, but it was a promise they never kept. Now that both the leaders have talked about the issue again, I hope they will be sincere about keeping that promise now.
Meanwhile, Assam's NRC has been a political agenda of the BJP for a long time. Assam's NRC has been BJP's mantra to win the elections.
Despite legitimate concerns, the government of India has repeatedly assured Bangladesh that it will not turn out to be a concern for Bangladesh; rather it is an internal concern for India.
So, after such repeated assurances, the NRC not being mentioned is not a big deal.
I am an optimistic person. The pacts signed and projects inaugurated during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's India visit give me hope.
Dr Ashikur Rahman
Policy Research Institute (PRI)
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's India visit has strengthened economic cooperation between Bangladesh and India.
The modality of the usage of Chattogram and Mongla ports has been settled in this tour. It means the potential of earning more through the ports has increased because the legal framework has been established.
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is now available in Bangladesh and an LPG terminal has also been established. Given that there are massive demands of energy in the northeast of India, we can export the LPG that we bring to this region by dint of the pact signed; which I believe is a win-win solution.
India could take it from Myanmar. But they took it from us. So, I think it was a big help and very positive bilateral progress.
We already have an existing $7.4 billion line of credit (LOC). Three more projects have been inaugurated in the PM's tour under that umbrella. So far less than 10 percent of the LOC has been utilised, so the cooperation that we see now will enhance the utilisation of the LOC.
Contrary to what many people fear, India's use of our ports will not turn out to be unprofitable. Ports are like gasoline pumps – more cars mean more revenue.
The internal dynamics of ports mean that when we have more traffic in our ports, our government will be more interested in enhancing their capacity.
We are looking forward to turning our Chattogram and Mongla ports into dynamic shipping centres. If India uses our ports, we will get revenue which will positively impact our overall growth. I believe it is a very good step forward.