Address by the  High Commissioner of India, H.E. Ms. Riva Ganguly Das at Arrival of the Trial vessel on Sonamura Port Tripura Statements & Speeches

Address by the High Commissioner of India, H.E. Ms. Riva Ganguly Das at Arrival of the Trial vessel on Sonamura Port Tripura

Address by the  High Commissioner of India, H.E. Ms. Riva Ganguly Das at Arrival of the Trial vessel on Sonamura Port Tripura [05 September, 2020 ]

Hon’ble Chief Minister, Tripura Shri Biplab Kumar Deb

Hon’ble Member of Parliament, Smti Pratima Bhowmik

Shri Aditya Mishra, Chairman, Land Port Authority of India (LPAI)

Shri Kiran Gitte, Secretary, Industries & Commerce, Government of Tripura

Shri Kirti Chakma, Assistant High Commission of Bangladesh to Tripura

Senior Government Officials,

Friends from Industry and Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning,

           I am very delighted to be in Sonamura today to witness the trial run on the Sonamura-Daudkandi route on river Gomti. I would  like to congratulate Ministry of Shipping, Government of India, Government of Bangladesh, Government of Tripura, Inland Waterways Authority of India and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority for this successful trial run.

2. Under the visionary leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, our bilateral relationship has transformed very significantly. Our relationship is based on history, language, our value systems and several other commonalities. Our unique friendship is forged in the Liberation War of Bangladesh. Our neighborhood policy follows our Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, which implies that we prosper together. The Government of India accords top priority to its relations with Bangladesh. For us, it is neighborhood first, and in the neighborhood, it is Bangladesh first.

3. Tripura has very deep historical linkages with Bangladesh. During the Liberation War of Bangladesh, Tripura extended the hand of friendship and support to the people of Bangladesh. Refugee camps were opened in various parts of Tripura- in Sonamura, Sabroom, Belonia, Melaghar, Udaipur, Bishramganj, Mohanpur, to name a few. Approximately 13 lakh people from Bangladesh took refuge in Tripura during the Liberation War. And today we are here again at Sonamura for a milestone event.

4. Bangladesh today has become our largest development partner; our largest trade partner in the region; and our most extensive and integrated Government-to-Government relationship is also with Bangladesh. Our bilateral trade has crossed USD 10 Billion dollar in the year 2018-19 with Bangladesh exporting over USD 1 Billion to India. Over 75 separate dialogue mechanisms connect our Governments and people in an effort to build the strongest possible framework for a strong partnership including a mechanism to deal with water management.  Further, through constant efforts our connectivity through rivers, roads, railways, etc have been constantly improving and providing benefits for our people.

5. Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Tripura has been going on through one integrated Check Post at Agartala-Akhaura and seven Land Custom Stations and two border haats. Today we will also witness the handing over ceremony of LCS Srimantapur to Land Port Authority of India. To enhance trade, permission for exporting 13 Priority items from ICP Agartala and 19 priority items from LCS Srimantapur has also been received in December 2019. This is in addition to the 8 priority commodities for which permission was received in 2018. I would like to urge the business community from Tripura as well as other neighbouring North Eastern States to use this opportunity. Two new border haats at Kamalpur and Palbasti are under construction and is likely to be ready very soon. We have also identified 2 additional sites for new border haats at Belchamar and at Ghoshkamar at Belonia in Tripura.

6. Friends, bilateral trade will be further strengthened by the projects being executed under Indian Line of Credit as well as grants. India and Bangladesh are investing in establishing an Inland Container Port (ICP) at Ashuganj, and in widening the existing road between Akhaura Land Port and Ashuganj to 4 lanes. These two projects are being implemented under the Indian Line of Credit. Government of India is also constructing a new rail link between Akhaura and Agartala and a friendship bridge over river Feni connecting Sabroom to Ramgarh in Bangladesh under grant funding. These two projects are likely to be completed very soon (March 2021 and December 2020 respectively).

7. Speaking of river routes, our rivers have carried people and goods for ages. These linkages, however were disrupted during the British colonial rule. Immediately after liberation of Bangladesh, India and Bangladesh signed Protocol on Inland Waterways Trade and Transit (PIWTT) in 1972 to revive them. The PIWTT was last renewed for a period of five years with provision for auto renewal during Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.

8. Today, we have witnessed the operationalization of the Sonamura-Daudkandi route on river Gumti. This route became part of PIWTT when we signed the 2nd Addendum in May 2020. The 2nd addendum also included the extenstion of the Rajshahi-Godagir-Dhulian route to Aricha and five new Ports of Call. This has brought the total number of ports of call to 11, extended ports of call to 2 and a total of 10 PIWTT routes.  I am particularly pleased that we have been able to move ahead on this initiative in the midst of the global Covid pandemic which has opened our eyes to exploring newer ways of doing business. After today’s trial run of the new protocol routes no. 9 & 10 between Sonamura & Daudkandi, I am certain that a greener mode of connectivity between Tripura and Bangladesh with reduced export-import costs has fructified. With the necessary mechanisms in place, time is opportune for the businesses on both sides to come forward and utilize these connectivity routes. They indeed hold the promise of having a multiplier effect on the bilateral trade.

9. Another example of our close partnership is the Agreement on the use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports for movement of India’s transit cargo through Bangladesh which was signed in 2018. I am happy to share that following the direction of both the leaders, the first trial run under this agreement was successfully concluded just few days back (23 July 2020). A Bangladesh vessel carrying container cargo was flagged off from Kolkata on 16th July 2020, arrived at Chattogram on 21 July 2020 and delivered goods at ICP Agartala on 23 July 2020.

10. This mutually beneficial agreement will accelerate the integration of our supply chains and logistics sector. It will reduce the transportation time & distance, logistic cost for transportation of goods for India. It will lead to the development of business services such as finance, transport and insurance services in Bangladesh. Moreover, it will have a direct impact on lives and livelihood of the people in this sub region. Farmers in this rich agricultural belt will benefit as the waterways will open up new markets.

11. Friends, as you can see our geographical proximity is our great advantage and we should leverage it for mutual benefit. Once our full connectivity potential is realized, cities like Pandu, Sonamura, Karimganj, Dhubri, Sabroom, etc. in India and Narayanganj, Sirajganj, Khulna, Mongla, Chilmari, Daudkandi etc. in Bangladesh will witness significant economic transformation. I would urge business communities to come forward to utilize the possibilities opening up due to increased connectivity and deepen existing synergies.  In particular, I am certain that Sabroom with a new Special Economic Zone and increased connectivity options will emerge as an Industrial hub.

12. Today, I would also like to extend an invitation to the Government of Tripura and Business community from Tripura to visit Bangladesh and have a stakeholder dialogue with their business counterparts.

13. I once again congratulate all those who have worked hard to make this trial run successful. I sincerely hope with the successful pilot run on the Sonamura-Daudhkandi protocol route, this route will open new trade opportunities between Tripura and Bangladesh. In particular, I would like to thank H.E. Mr. Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, the Hon’ble Minister of State for Shipping, Government of Bangladesh for his constant support. I would like to thank Government of Tripura for inviting me to today’s ceremony of operationalization of the Sonamura-Daudkandi protocol route.

Thank you.