1-yr extension on trade permit
Guwahati, Feb. 11: Cargo operators, who have been longing for a longer tenure of protocol on inland water transit and trade between India and Bangladesh, will be left disappointed as the protocol will be extended only by one year.
Sources said waterways officials of both countries are holding a two-day meeting in Goa tomorrow on Extension of Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade between India and Bangladesh.
The protocol is important for the waterways trade in the Northeast as Pandu, Silghat, Karimganj and Dhubri are routes on the protocol through which vessels can load and offload cargo.
In adherence to the protocol, for movement of vessels from one country to another, both countries designate certain points as “ports of call” where the vessels can load and offload cargo.
Sources said Bangladesh has conveyed to India that the latter’s demand for the duration of protocol for five years cannot be fulfilled as the protocol cannot be extended beyond the validity of trade agreement, as this is linked with the main trade agreement, which expires on March 31, 2012.
The last meeting of the protocol was held in 2009 and is valid till March 31, 2011, after which both the countries will sit down to renew the agreement.
In pursuance of article VIII of the Trade Agreement between Government of Bangladesh and the Government of India, a protocol on inland water transit and trade exists since 1972, which is renewed by the two countries from time to time.
Sources said this means that cargo operators would have to wait again for one year for renewal of the protocol for movement of cargo, which will only increase their difficulties.
Chairman of Inland Waterways Authority Bhupinder Prasad, who was recently in Guwahati, had called for greater investment in waterways so that more Indian vessels ply on the protocol route.
“There has to be more investment in the waterways for the private sector to operate vessels,” Prasad had said.
Another issue of concern is that though Silghat in Assam has been declared a permanent port of call last year there has been no movement of consignments.
Numaligarh Refinery Limited had sent high-speed diesel to Bangladesh from Silghat in 2007 but the movement had to be stopped in 2009 because of a number of reasons, including the shortage of diesel.
Around 3,400MT of high-speed diesel has been exported to the neighbouring country since 2007.
“There has been no reply from Bangladesh after we started the move afresh,” a senior NRL official said.