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North East to gain from three proposed Indo-Bangla agreements
Kalyan Barooah
 NEW DELHI, Oct 22 - In what is likely to boost trade, commerce and movement of passengers from Northe- astern States via Bangladesh, officials of the two countries are meeting here in two days time to finalise three agreements.

The deals among other facilities envisage allowing India to use Chittagong and Mongla Ports for transportation of cargoes to and from North East.

According to official sources, Dhaka has informed India that facilities at Chittagong and Mongla Ports have been augmented to handle extra cargo.

In exchange, India is likely to allow use of Kolkata and Haldia Ports for transportation of Bangladeshi garments to South Asian countries.

Sources said that details of the agreements will be worked out at Secretary-level scheduled to be held on October 24-26. A 14-member delegation from Bangladesh to be headed by Secretary Shipping, Abdus Samad is likely to reach Delhi tomorrow.

However, in a last minute development, Minister Shipping of Bangladesh Shahjahan Khan, who was originally scheduled to oversee the signing of the agreements along with Minister Shipping Nitin Gadkari, has cancelled his visit. The official-level discussion, however, is likely to go ahead, sources clarified, adding that India expects to sign the three agreements at the end of the dialogue.

According to the provisions of the agreement, the use of the two Bangladeshi Ports will be valid for five years and have provisions for renewal for another five years. Either side will have the right to cancel the agreement with a six month notice period, said sources.

It is proposed that Indian goods can be transported through four entry points at Agartala-Akhoura, Tamabil-Dawki, Sheola-Sutarkandi and Srimantapur (Tripura)-Comilla.

During the discussion the standard operating procedure (SPO) is likely to be finalised. Bangladesh Cabinet on September 17 has already cleared the proposal to allow the use of the two ports.

Sources said that negotiations will also be held to allow passenger travel across the two countries through cruise ships. A separate SOP will be signed to allow cruise ships to operate across the two countries.

The cruise service is proposed to allow Indian passengers to travel to Mongla, Dhaka, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazaar while Bangladeshi passengers can travel to Kolkata, Visakhapatnam and Chennai. The service will be operated by private parties, which will fix the fares and related charges.

The two countries would, however, determine the routes and levies to be imposed by India and Bangladesh. An agreement will also be signed to amend the existing protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade for determining a new port of call in both the countries.

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