No transit agreement with India: Bangladesh

Bangladesh has ruled out inking any transit agreement with India during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Dhaka: Bangladesh has ruled out inking any transit agreement with India during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here, even as it said a major
treaty on rail and waterways will be signed to increase connectivity.

"No transit agreement will be signed during the visit. We (however) don`t need any new agreement on transit either as it is not a new subject," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s
foreign affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi has said.

Speaking to a group of newsmen overnight on the sidelines of an Iftar party, he said that no transit agreement was needed to be signed since Bangladesh and India already had
bilateral trade agreement of 1974 that envisaged transit facilities through rail, road and water ways.

Asked about the tentative time to allow India to use the transit facility he said at this moment our roads are not at all ready. First, transit through waterways will be
operationalise, then railway and later on road.

But, Rizvi said, the two countries would need to sign protocols to make operational the transit facilities under the 1974 trade agreement while the two countries would also
require signing of protocols to make operational Bangladesh`s offer to India to use the Chittagong and Mongla seaports.

Asked what was likely to be the outcome of Singh`s September 6-7 visit, he said the two neighbours were expected to sign a framework agreement encompassing cooperation in
different fields including water, trade, culture and education and a major treaty on railway connectivity in north-eastern Akhaura-Agratala and northwestern Rohanpur- Singabad routes.

The senior technocrat adviser who taught governance and international relations in Oxford and Harvard for some 30 years, said there had been road and rail connectivity between
the then East Pakistan and India since 1947 which was snapped during the 1965 Indo-Pak War.

"What Bangladesh now needs is to construct infrastructure, roads, rail tracks, bridges and expansion of ports facilities and fixed the transit fees. We are now working on modalities
of the transit," he said.

Regarding the transit fees he said a committee of experts has submitted its report to the government but declined to elaborate it immediately saying after detailed analysis the
government would fix an amount.

Rizvi said the two nations were also expected to sign deals and memorandums of understanding (MoU) on demarcation of the remaining 6.5 kilometre of the un-demarcated borders, exchange of enclaves and adversively possessed land, free movement of Bangladeshis through Tin Bigha Corridor, interim agreement on sharing of the Teesta water and purchase of electricity.

"Whatever agreements are signed will be made public and placed in Parliament. Nothing will be kept secret," he said, in an apparent reference to main opposition Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) concerns of "compromised national interests" through proposed deals with India.

Rizvi evaded a question on inclusion of Nepal and Bhutan under the identical transit facilities while Finance Minister AMA Muhith earlier this week said communications
infrastructures in Bangladesh and neighbouring countries were not readied yet for transit though Dhaka was set to offer the facility to India, Nepal and Bhutan.


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