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Sanjay Tandan asked: What are the key transit routes to India’s north-eastern states running through Bangladesh, and how do they impact border management?

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  • Pushpita Das replies: At present, Bangladesh allows transit facilities to India’s north-eastern states by waterways for cargoes and roadways for passengers. For transit through waterways, India and Bangladesh had signed the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) on June 06, 2015, in which following inland water routes were mentioned:

    1. Kolkata-Haldia-Raimongal-Chalna-Khulna-Mongla-Kawkhali-Barisal-Hizla-Chandpur-Narayanganj-Aricha-Sirajganj-Bahadurabad-Chilmari-Dhubri-Pandu- Shilghat
    2. Kolkata-Haldia-Raimongal-Mongla-Kawkhali-Barisal-Hizla-Chandpur-Narayanganj-Bhairab Bazar-Ashuganj-Ajmiriganj-Markuli- Sherpur-Fenchuganj- Zakiganj-Karimganj.
    3. Karimganj-Zakiganj-Fenchuganj-Sherpur-Markuli-Ajmiriganj-Ashuganj-Bhairab Bazar-Narayanganj-Chandpur-Aricha-Sirajganj-Bahadurabad-Chilmari-Dhubri- Pandu-Shilghat
    4. Dhulian-Godagari-Rajshahi

    There is a provision in the Protocol to prescribe additional inland water routes by competent authorities from time to time. The ‘first official transit’ of Indian goods from Kolkata to Tripura via Ashuganj Port in Bangladesh took place on June 18, 2016.

    As regards transit of passengers through roadways, the Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata Bus Service was inaugurated in June 2015. This route reduced the distance between Agartala and Kolkata from 1650 km to 500 km and enabled people from Agartala to travel to Kolkata and vice versa through Dhaka.

    Border management entails facilitating smooth and efficient trade and travel across international borders between countries. In the context of India-Bangladesh border, the immigration and custom clearance procedures for transiting passengers and cargo, as of now, are cumbersome and time consuming. Passengers require multiple entry visa to transit through Bangladesh and the entire process of immigration clearance takes 4-5 hours to complete. Similar is the case with transiting cargo. As a result, there are few takers for either the Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata Bus Service or the Ashuganj Port transhipment facility.

    While India and Bangladesh have agreed to reduce customs and immigration documents required for transit purposes and built custom stations at or near the points of entry and exit in each country, not much progress has been made in this regard. Inefficient border clearance not only raise the transaction costs and travel time, but also risk jeopardising the security of the country if it fails to detect movement of criminal elements and illegal goods. It is hoped that both the governments will urgently put in place proper border clearance systems that would reduce transaction costs and guarantee a hassle free and secure travel.

    Posted on June 28, 2018