Bangladesh in trade, water talks with Bhutan, Nepal

Kathmandu :Alongside discussions with India, Bangladesh will also hold talks with Nepal and Bhutan on transit, transhipment and water sharing.A high-powered delegation led by prime minister’s economic affairs adviser Mashiur Rahman left for Kathmandu Sunday on a five-day visit to Nepal and Bhutan for talks.In Kathmandu, the team will emphasise Ganges water sharing and ask Nepal to work with Bangladesh and India to augment water flow of the river. Dhaka feels that cooperation among the three countries could ensure adequate water flow that would also help Bangladesh set up a hydro-power plant.The government has meanwhile asked the commerce ministry to formulate draft rules for fixing fees and other related matters to provide transit and transhipment facilities to India, Nepal and Bhutan.

The finance minister last week wrote a letter to the commerce minister that contained guidelines for preparing the rules.The six-member delegation will include representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, communications and shipping, Joint Rivers Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office.Talking to The Daily Star, Mashiur Rahman said that since the signing of Ganges Water Sharing Treaty in 1996 no further progress has been made in this regard. It was possible to augment the Ganges flow in cooperation with Nepal.“The real problem is, there is an enormous increased demand for water both in India and Bangladesh, and the solution lies in having more water,” he said.“We need to talk to Nepal, and to create in Nepal a willingness to work with Bangladesh and India to augment the flow, and simultaneously generate electricity. Nepal also has enormous potential for hydro-electricity. So, we will also talk about that.”

Mashiur said another important element to discuss with Nepal is transit and its operational modalities.“I don’t know the details. But we want to work together to reach an agreement. We want to work together to get operational modalities in detail.”He also said the main discussion with Bhutan will be on transit.Earlier on November 9, a meeting with Finance Minister AMA Muhith in the chair decided that a committee headed by the commerce minister would be formed for preparing rules for fixing fees for transit and transhipment. Accordingly, the finance minister wrote the letter to the commerce minister.Finance ministry sources said the letter mentioned that the committee would consist of representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, communications and shipping, and National Board of Revenue.

The committee may take advice from experts on transit and transhipment issues. Two such experts — M Rahmatullah and Sadiq Ahmed — are likely to be consulted for preparing the rules, the sources said.Rahmatullah is now conducting separate studies for Asian Development Bank and Centre for Policy Dialogue on transit and transhipment. Two draft reports have already been prepared.Sadiq is working as vice chairman of Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh. While working with the World Bank, he conducted researches on sub-regional cooperation including transit and transhipment.While framing the draft rules, the committee will analyse the studies and also look into how other countries give transit and transhipment facilities.The finance ministry has already collected some information about how some countries including Switzerland have provided these facilities to other countries.Besides, World Trade Organisation rules have specific clauses regarding transit and transhipment facilities. Bangladesh will also follow this, sources said – Sananews