Scope of Indo-Bangladesh waterways agreements to be expanded

The expansion of the Teesta River Agreement and plans to include 54 water assets under the ambit of the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) were discussed

March 17, 2021

A Joint Technical Working Committee will be formed to iron out the details of the expansion agreements.

A 2021 World Bank report projects that India and Bangladesh’s incomes will increase by 8% and 17% through waterway trade.

The Petrapole-Benapole section of the bilateral route could be streamlined so as to reduce transit time.

Indo-Bangladesh waterway connectivity can help strengthen the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) quadrilateral.

An Indo-Bangladesh meeting led by India’s  Secretary for Water Resources, RD &GR , Pankaj Kumar and Bangladesh’s Kabir Bin Anwar, Senior Secretary at the Ministry of Water Resources was convened to reassess the current bilateral water-sharing arrangement. The bilateral arrangements for the Teesta River as well as 54 water resources were discussed and proposals for the expansion were laid out. A Joint Technical Working Committee is to be formed in order to help concretise the vision for expansion. The World Bank report titled ‘Connecting to Thrive: Challenges and Opportunities of Transport Integration in Eastern South Asia’ outlines that India and Bangladesh stand to receive a rise in trade based income through improved bilateral connectivity. The report maintains that India’s national income will rise by 8%  and Bangladesh will see  a 17% rise in national income if transportation is improved. The report also recommends specific measures to actualise this vision, namely technology infusion across different types of ports, expansion of logistics and core transportation capabilities, upgrading of infrastructure design and streamlining of customs procedures. The Petrapole–Benapole segment of the Indo-Bangladesh border has been cited as an important segment in bilateral connectivity that will require to be improved upon. 

Prior to the March 2021 meeting, India had signed agreements recognising Bangladesh’s Chattogram, Mongla and Pangaon ports as well as the Dhubri port in India as important posts of trade and engagement. An SOP and an addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) was made to this effect. The delegates proposed that West Bengal’s Kolaghat’s port be recognized as a Port of Call and the Rupnarayan River be included in the Geonkhali- Kolaghat route. The May 2020 amendment to the Protocol further recognized 5 new bilateral ports of call in India and Bangladesh. The Observer Research Foundation posits that improvement of connectivity between India and Bangladesh could help expand the scope of India’s relations within the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) quadrilateral. With concerted bilateral policy assessments, barriers to waterway trade can be removed and innovative methods can be put in place to further growth.