The goods train would operate through a designated land port route of Benapole-Petrapole and Gede-Darshana.
The two neighbouring South Asian countries have been discussing the issue for nearly two years. Following this, Indian customs authorities under the finance ministry issued an order on this on 17 May.
The order said different Indian ministries and business bodies have raised the issue of importing Bangladeshi goods through rail route. Alongside this the proposal by Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi said that Bangladeshi goods could be imported in the empty containers after unloading Indian goods in Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi business firms are also interested to export their products in those containers.
The Indian customs authority’s order further said Corporation of India would be in charge of the management of containers to be carried by Indian railway. That goods train from Bangladesh would stop at any internal container depot in India before entering India through Petrapole of Gede to complete the customs procedures. The train’s movement and goods would be monitored by the Electronic Tracking System at the customs station so that no unauthorised or illegal goods can enter India.
Speaking to Prothom Alo about this, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen on Sunday said, “India sent goods by train to ensure uninterrupted supply during the period of Covid-19. Now, the country has informed Bangladesh about its decision to send goods by train. The Bangladesh side has to take proper steps to implement the decision.”
A senior official at the foreign ministry said details on export and import of goods by train was discussed during the commerce secretary level meeting in Delhi in March. Both the sides stressed on conducting a joint survey on developing railway infrastructure, port infrastructure, wider economic partnership agreement and extending regional connectivity through multipurpose communication.
The diplomatic sources further said the benefit for Bangladesh to export its goods will not be limited to India only. Bangladesh can take the benefit of third largest rail network in the world to export its goods to other South Asian countries as well. Readymade garments and textile products, light machinery, consumer goods, plastic and other products could be exported through the container service.
A recent report of the World Bank said the volume of export from Bangladesh to India would increase by 182 per cent if the two neighbouring countries could sign a coordinated economic partnership agreement. And, the export could see a rise by 297 per cent through developing connectivity. The WB published the report ‘Connecting to thrive: Challenges and opportunities of transport integration in Eastern South Asia’ in March 2021.
In the context of recent cordial relations between the two countries, transportation of passengers and goods by reopening the past railway links is stressed. Currently, Darshana-Gede, Benapole-Petrapole, Chilahati-Haldibari and Biral-Radhikapur are fully active. Among them, Darshana-Gede is known as Trans Asian Railway (TAR) route-1, and Rahanpur-Singabad as TAR route-2.
Indian goods are exported to Bangladesh through those two routes. As per the new order Bangladeshi goods will be exported to India through those two routes.
* The report has been rewritten into English by Shameem Reza