India seeks to extend pact for fuel transport via Bangladesh
India is looking to extend its pact with Bangladesh to transport fuel through the eastern neighbour to the states of Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur, two officials aware of the developments said. The deal expires on 30 November, reports Livemint.
The way through Bangladesh allows Indian fuel retailers to avoid the mountainous route through Silchar in Assam, which is prone to landslides. The only rail link connecting Assam’s Dima Hasao district with Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura and the rest of the country was washed away after heavy rain and landslides earlier this year.
“In case there is any disruption at Silchar, we will get through the India-Bangladesh side. That (option) has been there, and it is there is till 30 November. We are trying to solidify and extend it (deal) further for LPG and fuel transport. So instead of going through Silchar and the hilly areas which are prone to landslide, we can come through Bangladesh straight to the Tripura border," one of the officials said.
The official said New Delhi is expected to take up the matter with Dhaka. Under the pact, the OMC transporting the fuel pays toll tax to the Bangladesh authorities in lieu of using the route. “If the fuel comes to Tripura via this route, we can supply to Mizoram and Manipur more reliably," he said.
State-run Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL) had first sent seven tankers carrying 84,000 litres of kerosene and diesel from Guwahati, to Tripura via Bangladesh in 2016 after heavy rains cut off Tripura’s road links to Assam, where the supply originates. It was done under a short-term agreement.
Last month IOCL signed the pact, which expires in November and said that the company would again do trial runs for transporting fuels.
Replying to a query, a spokesperson of IOCL said, “MoU for movement of Petroleum products from Assam to Tripura / Mizoram, via Bangladesh is valid till 30 November 2022. We propose to get the MoU further extended with a provision for further extension on mutual consent."
“In this regard, we shall be requesting the concerned department in Govt of Bangladesh in coordination with Indian Embassy in Bangladesh and MoPNG, GOI,” the spokesperson said.
So far, the arrangement has been adopted for short periods, largely during the monsoon and post-monsoon periods, when the usual interstate route is inundated. But the government now wants to extend the usage of the Bangladesh route so that trucks and tankers could enter the neighbouring country through Dawki in Meghalaya, the official said.
Queries sent to the spokespeople for the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, ministry of external affairs and Bangladesh High Commission remained unanswered at press time.
The floods in Assam have disrupted fuel supplies to Mizoram and Tripura. Earlier this year, both states were reeling under a fuel crisis due to the snapping of an arterial railway line and National Highway 6 connecting Tripura and Assam amid the floods. As a result, both had to resort to the rationing of petroleum products in May.
Talks for extending the pact come at a time India and Bangladesh are looking at strengthening their ties. Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina visited India this week when the two countries signed seven agreements for cooperation in areas ranging from sharing river water to space and unveiled new connectivity and energy initiatives.
PM Narendra Modi and Hasina also reviewed progress on the India-Bangladesh friendship pipeline, which will help move high-speed diesel to northern Bangladesh from India.