Businesses, officials hope political and media unity

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

Bangladesh businesses are eager to see reconciliation among parties with different political ideologies and fraternity among different groups of journalists so that the country may go ahead with concerted efforts.

Government officials are keen to see that the nation including the leaders of different political parties has unfettered trust on them and the journalists do not mistrust them while performing duties fro the state.

“It is our earnest request that the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties sort out their differences without staging violent showdown on the streets,” AK Azad, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry told a meeting a city hotel recently.

He said confrontational politics of strike, blockade and clash disrupt the business activities of the country, which is likely to face fall in exports worth millions of dollars, if unrest continues unabated. Meanwhile the country recently experienced grouping and clashes among different groups of journalists, who have already been divided politically since early 1990s.

However the recent divisions perhaps were caused over some petty matters, which could have been easily reconciled if the individuals involved could acted more intelligently.

“Division among journalists is a serious matter of concern, because a division among journalists may divide the conscience of a nation,” said a senior official of the ministry of information. Meanwhile Bangladeshi shipping firms are in upbeat mood as Bangladesh have requested India to allows Bangladesh-flag ships to call at its east-coast ports under an existing river protocol between the two countries.

Both the sides also agreed to incorporating amendments to the protocol time to time following recommendations from shipping departments, customs and other relevant offices from both the countries. The river protocol that signed it in 1972 was renewed time to time with different amendments, especially after 1980, officials at the shipping ministry said.

But a senior official complained that a section of journalists were out to blame Bangladesh officials for allegedly surrendering the country’s interests to India.

“It is painful that despite of our sincere efforts a group of journalists keep on writing against the existing river protocol with India,” he said.

“We hope journalist will have a positive sight on our actions,” he added.

The river protocol brought more benefit for Bangladeshi shippers than the Indians, according to a data available on the the decades-old Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), Bangladeshi vessels are already dominating in the routes used under the river protocol.

“If India allows our ships to call at their ports in the eastern coast, definitely Bangladeshi vessels will get more cargo to carry between the two countries,” said a senior official of the shipping ministry.

Bangladesh imports goods worth some $4.5 billion from India and exports nearly $1.0 to that country annually.

Bangladesh’s exports to India increased since September last year, after the latter had eased sensitive lists and gave duty-free and quota-free access to Bangladesh garments.

Meanwhile both the countries extended the existing Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) up to March 2014, on July 3 in Dhaka.

Both the sides also agreed to incorporating amendments to the protocol time to time following recommendations from shipping departments, customs and other relevant offices from both the countries. The river protocol that signed it in 1972 was renewed time to time with different amendments, especially after 1980, officials at the shipping ministry said.

“However the provisions of the river protocols signed and proposed will be implemented in phases with the building of capabilities on both the sides,” the senior official of the ministry said.

Meanwhile shipping companies in Bangladesh hailed the respective shipping ministry for placing the proposal to India to allow Bangladeshi ships to call at the ports of Visakhapatnam in Andra Pradesh, Holdia in Paschimbanga and Paradip in Orissa.

However the ministry has suggested that the shipping companies to develop their respective capacity of ships with classifications from reputed international shipping firms.

Bangladesh has more than 1,000 non classified that is M-Class ships, which are unfit to call at any international ports. The country has only around 35 C-Class that is fully classified ships, shipping sources said.

Bangladesh made the proposal to allow Bangladeshi ships to India’s ports in east coast when the latter demanded Chittagong and Mongla ports to be opened for the Indian vessels, during the talks in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Committees have been formed to examine the proposals of the either sides, the official said.

Under the existing PIWTT out of a total of 7.69 million tonnes of cargo carried between 2005 and February 2012 through the route, Bangladeshi import cargo from India accounted 7.62 million tonnes which is 99.02 per cent of the total.

Bangladeshi flag vessels accounted for 98.39 per cent of the total vessels that have moved in this route. Indian transit cargo did not accede 0.2 per cent of annual basis between the period, the data said. Bangladeshi vessels dominate in terms of numbers in 201 kilometre long protocol routes through Sundarbans and another 440 km long routes between Bangladesh border and Silghat in Assam. Both the routes are maintained by India.

The amendment has been warranted to incorporate demands and suggestions tabled by both the parties during the two-day talks between the sides until Tuesday, other officials at the ministry said.