Bangladesh has sought access to the Kolkata port
to carry out export-import activities and a formal request in this regard was
made during official level talks held with that country in Dhaka during the
first week of this month. The proposal which has come up during the bilateral
talks is expected to contribute to regional initiatives to step up trade
The access may help Bangladesh attract Indian investments
in designated Special Economic Zones on the West Bengal border.
Nepal and Bhutan have access to Indian ports
through the bilateral framework. Both the Himalayan countries also access
Bangladesh through Indian territories. While Nepal accesses Bangladesh by road,
Bhutan uses both road and inland waterways.
Under the Regional initiatives, India has wider
logistics infrastructure to help both Nepal and Bhutan access the Chittagong
and Mongla ports in Bangladesh through India.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, has granted India’s
North-Eastern States access to Chittagong port through Tripura.
The bilateral inland water transport treaty has
been expanded to help Tripura access the Ashugunj river port in Bangladesh.
This will help Tripura to access Kolkata port through Bangladesh. This, coupled
with road transit and the upcoming rail transit through Bangladesh, will reduce
the distance between India’s North-East and Kolkata significantly.
Dhaka has however not pressed for Indian
infrastructure to expand their low-draft seaport at Chittagong. Bangladesh is
planning to set up deep draft port(s) in near future.
Bangladesh’s only major
port at Chittagong is suffering from capacity constraints. The port
has poor rail connectivity and this has led to over-dependence on road movement.
The overall logistics cost is therefore very high in Bangladesh. As a net
result, industrial and commercial activities are mostly centered around
Chittagong and Dhaka — in the eastern parts of the country.
By claiming access rights to Kolkata port,
Bangladesh is trying to correct this regional imbalance. As rail connections
and inland water connectivity between the two neighbours widen, access to
Kolkata port can add to the potential of attracting Indian investments in