Only Bangladeshi vehicles to transport Indian goods: opposition


Dhaka : As Dhaka prepares to allow transit access to India as part of a trade pact, its main opposition has stipulated that Indian goods could only be transported in Bangladeshi vehicles.

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M.K. Anwar, vice president of the Khaleda Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), told The Daily Star newspaper Thursday that Bangladesh had signed many treaties with India in the past, “but most of them were not implemented due to the non-cooperation from the other side”.

“Both sides differed on different conditions,” he said hours after a special cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cleared a three-year trade treaty that would also provide for passage of goods between two places in one county through the territory of the other.

Zia has been warning Hasina against signing “any anti-national treaty with foreign countries” and has threatened to take to the streets.

However, indicating a climbdown, Anwar said: “We have no objection to Indian goods being transported by Bangladeshi vehicles, but we won’t accept if Indian vehicles are allowed to use our territory to carry goods from the country’s (India) one part to another.”

Transit facility has been a long-pending plea of India that is eager to reach out to its north-eastern region.

It has said that it is an economic issue, not a political one.

The Sheikh Hasina government, installed last month, appears to agree to this principle.

“My government will not hesitate to sign any agreement in the interest of the country and for the welfare of the people,” Hasina said after the cabinet meeting.

Commerce Minister, Col (retd.) Faruk Khan, who will be signing the treaty with Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday, has called trade “a weapon in politics,” and deprecated critics of the transit pact.

The Bangladesh-India trade agreement was first signed in 1980 between then state minister for commerce, Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui, and India’s then commerce, mine and steel minister Pranab Mukherjee.

It was last renewed March 21, 2006 with the signing of the treaty between then finance and planning minister M. Saifur Rahman and India’s then commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath in New Delhi.

Bangladesh has the highest trade imbalance of about $1.19 billion with India.

Khan said duty-free access of Bangladeshi goods would also be discussed with Mukherjee, as Dhaka aims to reduce this trade gap.

Khan also said issues related to maritime boundary, sharing water of common rivers and border demarcation would also be on the agenda.