Dhaka: Bangladesh has signed a crucial transshipment agreement with India fin-alising an earlier deal to allow Indian goods to be transported to its isolated northeastern Tripura state, through Bangladesh territory, officials said yesteraday.
"I have signed [late yesterday] the agreement declaring our Ashuganj as a new "port of call" for the transport of Indian goods, including heavy consignments, for their Palatana Power Project in Tripura, Shipping secretary Abdul Mannan Hawladar told Gulf News.
He said with the signing of the agreement, in line with an earlier decision taken during Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina's maiden India tour last January, the northern Ashuganj would be the second transport point and fifth port of call in Bangladesh.
New Delhi, in a reciprocal step, Hawladar said, already declared Shilghat in Assam state as a port of call on the Indian side.
Officials earlier said the Indian government sent the signed agreement last week to be countersigned by Dhaka to make it an agreement.
The shipping ministry would now send the document back to New Delhi through the Foreign Office in Dhaka. They said since the 1980s New Delhi sought to use Ashuganj as a transshipment point as it was only 49 kilometres from the Tripura border.
The river port is navigable throughout the year, and Bangladesh also expects huge revenues from the facility.
Earlier reports said the shipping ministry has already formulated a 2.5 billion taka (Dh129 million) project to develop Ashuganj with modern equipment to handle heavy Indian cargoes.
The project was expected to be completed in 2013 but trade may go ahead as Ashuganj has good infrastructure.
The state-run Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) officials said preparations were underway to transform Ashuganj into a modern port and renovate the 49-kilometre road from the port to the Tripura border, with New Delhi bearing the cost.
Officials earlier said Bangladesh decided to consider as a "test case" its decision to allow New Delhi to use its territory to carry goods to Tripura responding to a long pending Indian request for transit while Dhaka would then move with other proposals for transit of various modes for the next-door neighbour.