Explained: Bangladesh’s Approval Of New Transit Routes With Northeast India


The Bangladesh government has given its approval to four transportation routes for the movement of goods in Tripura and other northeastern Indian states, as per recent reports.

The routes include two routes connecting Chittagong Port and Mongla Port to Agartala via Akhaura, in Tripura.

Further the notified routes include connecting Chittagong and Mongla Port to Srimantapur via Bibirbazar, in West Bengal.

This development is a component of the larger bilateral ties to facilitate transit and trans-shipment of cargo with the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports — to significantly reduce the time and expenses involved in transporting goods to the northeast India.

Opening India’s Landlocked Northeast States

On 25 April 2023, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) of Bangladesh issued a “permanent transit order” for India to facilitate transshipment of cargo on the two major ports of Bangladesh.

With this, India has received access to Chittagong and Mongla ports — opening up the landlocked north-eastern states to the Bay of Bengal for movement of goods and resources. (read more on this)

Chittagong Port is Bangladesh’s main seaport located in the country’s southeast and manages over 90 per cent of the country’s overseas commerce.

Additionally, the Mongla Port is the country’s second largest seaport situated on the Bay of Bengal.

Currently, most of the movement to the region is channelled through the “chicken’s neck” — a narrow strip in Siliguri, West Bengal.

According to World Bank, despite its abundant natural resources, the North East region has been hampered by poor connectivity and high transportation costs for goods.

The Notified Transit Routes

With the notified routes between Tripura and Bangladesh ports, there is expected to be an 80 per cent reduction in transportation costs between the two points, as per World Bank officials.

Previously, goods from Agartala in Tripura have to travel 1,600 km through the Siliguri corridor to reach Kolkata Port instead of just 450 km through Bangladesh.

Additionally, in March 2021, the prime ministers of the two countries inaugurated the Maitri Setu — a 1.9 km bridge built over the Feni River — which has reduced the distance between Sabroom in southern Tripura and the Chittagong port to just 111 km.

A multi-modal transit hub is also under development at Sabroom, featuring road and rail connectivity to enable faster transportation of goods to the port.

India and Bangladesh are strengthening connectivity through cross-border railway links, riverine waterway systems, and port utilisation for trans-shipment.

A total of 16 transit routes have been declared allowing cargo transportation through which landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura states could access open water routes.

Representation of the transit routes

Apart from the recently notified routes, other routes include connecting Dawki in Meghalaya via Tamabil, Sutarkandi in Assam via Sheola to the two major ports in Bangladesh.

Improvements in road connectivity are underway in Dawki, Sutarkandi, and Akhaura.

Furthermore, Mizoram aims to construct bridges across the Khawthlangtuipui river (Karnaphuli in Bangladesh) to achieve faster access to Chittagong Port.