New Delhi: India and Bangladesh on Thursday signed an agreement to use the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India.

The countries also decided to initiate Kolkata-Dhaka-Guwahati-Jorhat river cruise services.

The agreements were signed during the 19th edition of the standing committee meeting under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade in New Delhi. The two-day secretary-level talks between India and Bangladesh concluded on Thursday.

Shipping secretary Gopal Krishna said the move would strengthen trade and ties between the two neighbours. “An addendum has also been signed for inclusion of new ports Dhubri in India and Pangaon in Bangladesh," said Krishna, adding discussions were also held to make the Nakugaon land port in Bangladesh and Dalu in India operational and to connect Gelephu in Bhutan as a tripartite cross-border route.

Bangladesh shipping secretary Abdus Samad expressed satisfaction with the present rounds of talks and said the next round of talks were expected in December. “The last round of talks between India and Bangladesh was held in 2016 and I am happy that after two years India has initiated the next round of talks which will help both countries."

Both the sides have agreed for development of Jogighopa as a hub/transshipment terminal for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan and on notifying Munshiganj river terminal by Bangladesh customs for routing third-party exim cargo through Kolkata port. The move will help reduce logistic costs substantially.

In another move, the Indian side raised the point of permitting ‘third country’ exim trade in the coastal shipping agreement by allowing transhipment through ports on the east coast of India to which Bangladesh has agreed but will revert only after stakeholder consultations.

Discussions were also held to consider inclusion of Rupnarayan river (National Waterway 86) from Geokhali to Kolaghat in the protocol route and to declare Kolaghat as new port of call. Chilmari was agreed to be a port of call in Bangladesh. The new arrangement will facilitate movement of fly ash, cement and construction material from Jharkhand to Bangladesh through Rupnarayan river.

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