NEW DELHI: Bangladeshi Prime Minister assured to supply rice to the food-deficient northeastern states of India and has also laid stress on “mutual interest” by allowing all its ports to ferry goods bound for the region, informed Tripura’s Industries and Commerce Minister Tapan Chakraborty.

The Tripura minister was a member of the of an Indian delegation led by Minister of State for External Affairs, General V.K. Singh (retd), that visited Bangladesh for a conclave earlier this week.

The conclave was organized by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry in association with the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.

Talking about the conclave and the subjects discussed in the conclave at Dhaka, he said “ After attending the one-day conclave on India-Bangladesh trade and improving connectivity between the two countries, the Indian delegation met the Bangladeshi prime minister. During the meeting, Madam Hasina proposed to supply rice to Tripura and other northeastern states to meet their scarcities.”

Applauding this move, he said that this will even“reduce the cost for carrying food grains to the region from far-off states like Punjab or Andhra Pradesh”.

Further, he added “Madam Hasina categorically said that the Bangladesh government can allow all its ports including seaports on mutual interest to transport goods from any part of India to the northeastern region via her country”

The first ever consignment of 5,000 tonnes of the total 10,000 tonnes of rice in small ships reached Ashuganj river port from Kakinada port in Andhra Pradesh via Kolkata port on Aug 5.

From that port which is about 40 km from Tripura, the Bangladeshi trucks have been carrying the rice since Aug 7 to FCI warehouses in Nandannagar.

Prior to that, in 2012, Bangladesh had allowed India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and cargo through Ashuganj port for the 726 MW Palatana mega power project in southern Tripura.

It is much easier to transport foods, essential commodities and heavy machinery to several northeastern states via Bangladesh from different parts of India as surface connectivity is a key factor for the mountainous region surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China. Millions of rupees have been spent by the Indian government in order to develop the port and related infrastructure.

At present, it is only through Assam and West Bengal that any commodity reaches the northeastern states in India.

Tripura, Mizoram and a few other northeastern states have been pressing Indian government to finalise a permanent multi-modal transit route via Bangladesh to carry foods, essentials and heavy machinery.

In this regard, Chakraborty said “We have proposed a direct bus service between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh. Discussions were also held about the development of infrastructure of the Land Customs Stations along the India-Bangladesh borders to further improve trade between Bangladesh and northeastern states.”

The Minister added “The 70-km road between southern Tripura’s border town Sabroom and Chittagong sea port has to be improved to carry men and material to and from India and Bangladesh”.

Informing that preliminary works had been done to build a bridge over river Feni to connect with the Chittagong port in southeast Bangladesh, he boasted “ Tripura would be a gateway for northeastern states if accessed to Chittagong international port was availed”.