India wants a piece of Bangladeshi land in Brahmanbaria to upgrade and expand the Agartala airport, which is set to become the third international airport in India’s northeastern region by the end of this year or early next year.
India, however, did not send a detailed proposal in this regard.
Zanandra Nath Sarker, joint secretary at the civil aviation and tourism ministry, said India made a verbal proposal to Bangladesh’s foreign ministry sometime in March.
“After the foreign ministry informed the matter to the civil aviation ministry, it asked the foreign ministry to seek a detailed technical proposal and sketch map from India,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.
The detail proposal should explain exactly where and how India wants the land, how much land is required and the ground on which it will be used, he said, adding that the civil aviation ministry was yet to receive any response.
Once India submits the technical proposal, the civil aviation ministry will sit with the foreign ministry to check whether Bangladesh’s laws have any provision to allow any other country to use Bangladeshi land,
Contacted, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said he knew about one such proposal from India and that any decision in this regard would come from the prime minister.
“But my opinion is why should I give any Bangladeshi land to India? There should be no question about it,” he told The Daily Star.
The Airport Authority of India (AAI) had undertaken a Rs 438 crore project to upgrade the Agartala airport, which is renamed as Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport, to international standards by providing world-class facilities, Indian newspaper The Economic Times reported on June 18.
Expansion and upgradation of Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport is part of AAIs Rs 3,400 crore projects for the upgradation of various airports in the Indian northeastern region that has historically been underdeveloped, the newspaper said.
Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister Pranajit Singha Roy said following the completion of the project, flights between Agartala and Dhaka, as well as other Bangladeshi cities like Chattogram and Sylhet, would be operated.
“The state government had already provided 72 acres of land to the AAI for construction of the new terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure,” he said.
According to AAI officials, the Agartala airport, which is located 20 km north of the capital city of Agartala, sits just along the Bangladesh border. It handled on an average nine lakh passengers per year, The Economic Times reported.
Asked about the matter, Dhaka University International Relations’ Prof Dr Imtiaz Ahmed said there were some airports that fall on the borders of two or even three countries. One of them, for example, is Geneva International Airport situated both in Switzerland and France.
“However, the context of South Asia is not comparable to that of Europe. It is because of the structures of immigration, currency and politics,” he told The Daily Star.
There are the questions of sovereignty, security and political implications, he said.
He, however, said if Bangladesh is to provide the land for the Agartala airport, its government must address the issues of security, sovereignty and commercial viability.
“We need to see if both Bangladesh and India can jointly handle the airport,” he said.
Dr Rozana Rashid, associate professor of international relations at Dhaka University, said though Bangladesh and India are good friends, a good number of Bangladeshi people have some level of anti-India sentiments.
“The government needs to be very cautious before taking any decision about the matter,” she said.
Aviation expert Kazi Wahedul Alam, meanwhile, said if it benefits people and the country economically and trade-wise, allowing India to use Bangladesh’s land for the purpose can be beneficial. But, sovereignty and security issues must be addressed, he said.
However, the terms and conditions of exactly how it is going to happen must be very clear so that it does not lead to any problem in future, he added.