Sunday, September 11, 2011

Govt’s Transit Statements Contradictory : Observers

The Awami League-led government’s ministers and advisers are making contradictory statements on the question of Bangladesh providing transit to India, diplomatic and political observers said on Saturday.
‘Their statements on transit are contradictory and confusing, ‘professor Delwar Hossain, chairman of the department of international relations at Dhaka University, told New Age.

He said the contradictory statements reflect conflicts within the government.
Professor Delwar said the government owed it to the
nation to dispel the confusion it created to ensure clarity and transparency about the issues.

‘Otherwise it would be harmful for both the country in the long run as well as for the government,’ he said.
He said on the one hand the prime minister’s international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi said on June 27 it’s not true that India would not pay any fees for availing transit through Bangladesh.

But the prime minister’s economic affairs adviser Mashiur Rahman said in March that Bangladesh could not ask for tariff or fee for providing transit.

Mashiur Rahman even said that demanding tariff for the use of transit was against World Trade Organisation rules.

Rizvi said, ‘We’ll get the legal and legitimate fee from India for using transit.
 Mashiur Rahman said, ‘We could demand transit fess only if we were “uncivilized” and “uneducated.”’ .
Mashiur Rahman also wrote to the National Board of Revenue and the ministries of commerce and shipping not to charge India fees for the movement of its goods through Bangladesh.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue said its studies done in November last year showed that Bangladesh could earn $2.3 billion in 30 years by providing transit facilities to India, Nepal and Bhutan.

CPD said that its study showed that Bangladesh could earn 10 per cent of the potential revenue in first five years as transit fees would be low in the initial years when the infrastructure would have to be built.
An Asian Development Bank study estimated that Bangladesh could earn annual revenue of $1 billion on completion of the needed infrastructure in five years.

 ADB said, initially, Bangladesh could earn annual revenue of $50 million.

Projected returns on transit are based on imposition and collection of transit fees and charges.
But finance minister AMA Muhith said in November last year that the existing transit rules of the National Board of Revenue would be amended and to re-fix the transit fees.

Rizvi said on August 28 that there was no need for Bangladesh and India to sign ‘any new agreement’ on transit as they had signed two bilateral trade agreements in 1972 and 1980 envisaging road, rail and waterway transit facilities.

He also said that there should be no further delay in providing transit to India.
‘We’ve waited for 40 years to offer transit to India. We can’t wait anymore,’ Rizvi said.

Foreign minister Dipu Moni said on September 4 that the two countries would exchange letters allowing India to use of Chittagong and Mongla seaports for its trade with third countries.

Senior government officials said that Bangladesh and India would need to sign a formal agreement for providing any such transit facilities.

 Dhaka stepped back from signing and exchanging the letters on transit at the last minute after India suddenly declined to sign Teesta sharing agreement during Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Dhaka.

Muhith said in December the government would not allow ‘corridor’ to any country, and that it would only provide transit facility to India.

‘Ideas on regional connectivity need to be clarified. The government is not going to give a corridor. It is a political idea, but transit is a different concept. Under transit, goods come in and go out,’ he said.

According to the World Trade Organisations, transit is a passage for transferring goods and passengers from one country to another country through or across a third country or more countries.

Corridor is usually provided through road, rail, air, river and sea for passage of goods and people between two points of a country through or across another country.

BY : Shahidul Islam Chowdhury.