TRANSIT: IMPACT ON BANGLADESH
Md. Anwar Hossen,
Department of Economics , Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh,Email: email@example.com
A debate has been raging in the country on whether transit facilities should be given to India or not through the land territory of Bangladesh. Some argue that it should not be given unless some core bilateral issues with India are resolved, while some have advanced the view that transit is an economic issue for trade facilitation and should not be politicized. Some have argued that what India wants is not a transit but a corridor. Whichever view one holds, the fact of the matter is that transit issue is a complex one. It is a multi-faceted issue. Is transit an economic issue? Some argue transit is an economic issue. It facilitates trade and therefore it may be perceived as such. I would argue that this is conceivable but for most of the cases political relations define economic relations. In other words, political relations cannot be separated from economic relations. History is replete with examples of friendly political relations providing the climate and the incentive for forging closer economic relations. It has been seen that in most case progression has been from close political relations to the deepening of economic relations. For example, why does Bangladesh not have economic relations with Israel? It is because there is no political relationship with that country. Political relationships that are not characterized by mistrust or suspicion allow first steps in economic relationship which would then expand and generate vigorous inter-state economic activities. In that context, for creating an appropriate political climate, India has to come up with fair and just proposals to resolve some of the bilateral issues that affect Bangladesh people with “bread and butter issues”. The issues of top priority are (a) maritime boundary, (b) land boundary including the exchange of enclaves, (c) reduction of huge trade deficit and (d) equitable sharing and management of water of trans-boundary Rivers. Moreover giving transit facility to India will enhance economic competition between Bangladesh and India. Will Bangladesh be capable to compete with a country of large economy like India?
Bangladesh lies astride the Indian mainland and its North Eastern Region (NER) comprising seven relatively small Indian states. Prior to the partition of India in 1947, the trade and commerce of the NER with the rest of India and the outside world used to pass through the territories of what is now Bangladesh. Rail and river transit across the former East Pakistan continued till 1965 when, as a consequence of the Indo-Pak war, all transit traffic were suspended. Although river transit was restored in 1972, no progress has been made on the issue of road and rail transit/transshipment. From the Indian point of view, transit or transshipment across Bangladesh is important because it will greatly boost the economy of the NER. While Bangladesh could greatly benefit from transit fees and potentially huge Indian investment in the transportation network, there are doubts in various corners in Bangladesh regarding the security implications of such a deal? The connotation of transit is to be distinguished from that of a corridor. In the corridor, a country gives some kind of rights or control on the land to the other country making it a defacto of its territory, while in transit there is no question of rights involved in the land territory allowed for transit. It provides only transit facilities under certain conditions and can be withdrawn. For example, under the Bangladesh-India 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, Bangladesh wanted a lease in perpetuity an area of India’s territory 178 meters X 85 meters near Tin Bigha to connect enclave Dahagram with main land of Bangladesh. But eventually Bangladesh did not get “corridor” from India. In pre-partition...
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