Boosting trade and connectivity, as well as inking of agreements on power, road transport and shipping, is set to be the focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh on June 6 and7, as both neighbours prepare to put into operation the long-awaited land-swap agreement. Also on the agenda is the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement.
During the visit, connectivity between north-eastern states to Kolkata, via Bangaladesh, will be on the table for discussions and Modi is likely to flag off a bus service between Kolkata, Dhaka and Agartala. This service is expected to give an impetus to people-to-people connectivity between both the countries.
New Delhi and Dhaka have already been discussing Kolkata-Chittagong, Shillong-Chittagong, Khulna-Kolkata and Jeshore-Kolkata bus services, and a survey for the construction of a bridge across the Feni River had already been completed. Bangladesh is expected to start construction soon with a land port on their side.
While both countries already have the Kolkata to Dhaka train service, both would examine the possibility of a train service between Khulna and Kolkata, sources said. However, an accord on sharing the Teesta river waters will not be on the agenda as “much distance is to be travelled” yet by both sides on arriving at an agreement.
It is understood that while the West Bengal government has been kept on board on consultations regarding sharing of the Teesta, which runs through lower riparian neighbour Bangladesh, the necessary support from the state has not been forthcoming. With India and Bangladesh sharing a 4,096-km border, of which over 1,000 km is riverine, there is a great potential to boost waterways connectivity.
Both sides are negotiating a coastal shipping agreement, which would allow smaller vessels to go to Bangladesh. The two countries also have an inland waterways agreement signed in 1972. Indian companies are being invited to set up ports in Bangladesh.
Opening up of more border haats is also set to get a boost. In 2012, India opened a border haat in Meghalaya to boost trade in local produce. Sources say seven more border haats are also on the anvil.
The two sides are also planning to set up Special Economic Zones in Bangladesh to boost Indian investment. Bangladesh has offered land for setting up SEZs.