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India to get access to landlocked N-E states through B'desh

Last updated on: August 08, 2010 21:15 IST

India will get access to its landlocked seven northeastern states through Bangladesh with "unfettered movement of people and goods" as Dhaka seeks to transform itself into a "regional hub" by boosting road and railway connectivity in the country.

Underlining that the country had been isolated for too long, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said on Sunday giving transit facilities (to India) would bring economic benefit for Bangladesh.

She said Bangladesh wants to transform the country into a regional hub so that the entire region is well connected.

"When we are thinking about transforming Bangladesh as a regional hub and when the entire region will be brought under the connectivity, India will have access to its northeastern states," she said, adding "unfettered movement of people and goods will be taking place".

Relations between the South Asian neighbours were chilly between 2001-2006 when the Islamist-allied Bangladesh National Party was in power in Bangladesh and New Delhi regularly accused Dhaka of harbouring anti-India insurgents and fostering militancy.

The bilateral ties, however, have been on the upswing since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to power after the landmark general election in 2008.

In the largest-ever loan India has given to any foreign country, New Delhi yesterday signed an agreement with Bangladesh to extend a USD 1 billion credit line to Dhaka for developing 14 infrastructure projects, mostly in the communications sector.

The loan agreement was signed between the Exim Bank of India and the Economic Relations Department of Bangladesh in the presence of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Amid protests by the main opposition BNP over the massive loan, Moni described it as a "win-win situation". She said it has been taken to fulfill Bangladesh's interests.

However, she underlined that India will also get benefits from the deal.

"If connectivity is in place, all will get the benefit," she said, adding "it will be a win-win situation".

"One must get out of the negative thinking that India will benefit if roads and ports are developed," Moni was quoted as saying by The Star online on Sunday.

The Foreign Minister said if rail communications are improved, Bangladesh will get the benefit and in some areas while India will also get benefits.

India has agreed to facilitate transit between Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan while Dhaka signed a deal to allow New Delhi access to its landlocked northeastern states during Prime Minister Hasina's maiden tour to India in January.

Moni said Dhaka expected the opening of the proposed transit routes to Nepal and Bhutan through India by the yearend.

"I will not give you any deadline but the formalities (of transit through India) is expected to be completed by this year," she said at a press briefing, a day after Indian finance minister Mukherjee visited Dhaka on a five-hour hectic tour.

The minister said no protocol was likely to be required with India to launch the routes with Nepal and Bhutan as exchanges of letters between Dhaka and New Delhi would be sufficient to accomplish the formalities to enable the two landlocked countries to use Bangladesh's port facilities.

Mukherjee said in Dhaka on Saturday that "we will soon have in place arrangements to allow trucks from Nepal to enter the Bangladesh side of the land custom station at Banglabandha".

Moni, however, said the arrangements would also allow Bangladesh vehicles to enter into Nepal and Bhutan though India.

Dhaka and New Delhi in March this year signed a crucial trans-shipment agreement finalising an earlier deal to allow Indian goods to be trans-shipped to its landlocked northeastern Tripura state through Bangladesh territory.

Bangladesh last month also sought India's intended modus operandi for using its northeastern Chittagong and southwestern Mongla ports under a landmark Dhaka-New Delhi agreement during Hasina's visit.

Moni described Mukherjee's visit, the first by a senior Indian leader since Hasina's India tour, as "very fruitful".

"It was brief, but very fruitful" as the two countries reviewed the progress of implementation status of deals reached during Hasina's visit, she told mediapersons today.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh and India also aim to settle contentious border issues between the two neighbours. Moni said Bangladesh-India Joint Border Working Group was expected to meet in September to address the issues of demarcation of 6.5-kilometers frontier lines and exchange of enclaves and land in adverse possession.

When asked on the progress of water sharing treaty on Teesta, she expressed the hope that an interim agreement over the common river would be done next year.
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