The forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Dr Manmahan Singh may see the signing of a 'framework agreement' on transit for India through Bangladesh. The government agencies are engaged on various exercises in this regard. Sources in the government said there is a strong possibility of the signing of the framework agreement as all preparations are afoot at various levels including the ministry of foreign affairs, tariff commission and other concerned ministries. The issue, however, remained unclear in recently issued variable statements by Indian foreign minister SM Krishna and Bangladesh foreign secretary Mizarul Quas when the former said draft of the framework agreement was at final stage while the later said it was still in crude form Tariff Commission chairman Dr Mujibur Rahman told The New Nation Sunday that the possibility of signing the agreement may not be ruled out. They are also working on different tariff rates issues but any detailed exercise would be taken up only after the signing of the framework agreement. "But we are far ahead in calculating things that may come up later," he said The Tariff Commission chairman cleared the matter to a question whether the Indian side has already put their proposals on the table on various tariff rates and Bangladesh is working on harmonizing them. Experts say the framework agreement may officially decide on various transit routes, modes of transportation, nature of cargo, traffic rules, use of ports and such other things along with stoppage and storage facilities that Indian users may claim while carrying passengers and cargoes through Bangladesh. It may consist of roads, railways and water transit through various points and inclusive of Nepal and Bhutan beyond Bangladesh border, a source indicated. Referring to an earlier Tariff Commission estimate of at least $ 7 billion dollar additional investment in the next three to four years to develop a reasonable regional connectivity network, Dr Mujib said much of this investment is already in the pipeline under various development projects. The Asian Development Bank, World Bank and such other international lending agencies are providing the money, he said hoping that things would move faster than initially anticipated. "Our objective is to promote Bangladesh as a regional business hub with Chittagong port working as the catalyst," he said. Apart from agreeable transit fees and such other administrative levies, the economy will benefit from new spurt in service sectors and from new employment opportunities in business and transport related activities, he said. How the government is going to put the additional $7.0 billion investment in transit related infrastructures, apart from the Indian $1.0 credit, another source say Padma bridge itself is a mega project now under construction. The bridge with road and railway facilities is going to create a new transportation corridor for transit, to be very short cut from the existing connectivity routes across the Bangabandhu bridge over the Jamuna river. Moreover, its railway is not capable to sustain heavy cargo train. The new transit corridor using the Padma bridge will help the transportation of goods and passengers from Benapole to Dhaka through Jessore, knowledgeable sources said. To a question why the government had withdrew in haste the NBR circular on transit fees on Indians protest, he said it did not mean they are opposed to paying transit fees. The circular was not issued in proper procedure, he claimed. Dr Mujib said Bangladesh would be reasonable in fixing various transportation rates so that India feels encouraged in using the connectivity facilities. Higher transportation volume will bring more revenue. The government will obviously relate the recovery of all connectivity related investment from transit fees, he said. To another question, he said the country would stand to enormously benefit from the connectivity opening to the Indian northeast. He supported claims by FBCCI president AK Azad that it would expand Bangladesh's domestic market to the northeast including new Bangladeshi investments. The rate of its success will however depend on the speed and dynamism of Bangladeshi business which looks forward to expand activities there, he said.