January 11, 2018
A passenger vehicle movement protocol between the four nations is nearly ready; trial runs of cargo vehicles to continue during 2018 before finalising protocols
The four countries had signed a Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) in 2015 as a first step towards allowing for free trade and passenger movement across the borders
Over January 10-11, officials from Bangladesh, India and Nepal met in Bengaluru to discuss the implementation of the MVA. Bhutan attended as an observer state
The BBIN countries are members of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and yet trade little among themselves. The BBIN project hopes to remedy this
A transport project connecting Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) is inching closer to its logical conclusion with all the necessary preliminary agreements gradually falling into place. The four countries had signed a Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) in 2015 as a first step towards the development of a sub-regional platform, allowing for free trade and passenger movement across the borders of these four countries. Over January 10-11, 2018, senior officials from Bangladesh, India and Nepal met in Bengaluru, in a meeting convened and chaired by the Indian Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to discuss the implementation of the MVA. The meeting was also attended by an official delegation from Bhutan but only as observer since the country is yet to ratify the agreement.
Bangladesh, India and Nepal have agreed on the operating procedures for passenger vehicle movement in the sub-region under the BBIN MVA, which was signed in June 2015. The MVA’s objective was to set out the parameters and regulatory framework for easy movement of passengers and cargo between the four countries. The three nations are expected to soon complete the internal approval processes for signing of the passenger protocol. Trial runs for cargo vehicles under the MVA were conducted along the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and Delhi-Kolkata-Dhaka routes. The trials were successful in establishing the Agreement’s economic benefits. The participating countries have also agreed to conduct more trial runs for cargo vehicles under the agreement.
At the Bengaluru meeting, members of the four delegates agreed to conduct pilot runs of cargo vehicles along the scheduled routes from April 2018 as a precursor to finalising the common protocol for cargo vehicular movement. BBIN presents a unique opportunity to pursue sub-regional economic cooperation which is expected to result in higher trade and investment flows among the member countries. Earlier, transhipment of goods from one country to another required changing of trucks at the border, with the process of repeated loading and unloading, adding to time and cost factors. Interestingly, all the countries under BBIN are members of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and yet trade very little among themselves. The BBIN project hopes to remedy this aberration.
The BBIN initiative is part of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, which brings together, apart from the BBIN countries, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in projects-based partnerships. SASEC’s objective is to promote regional prosperity, improve economic cooperation and opportunities. ADB has been providing technical, advisory, and financial support to the BBIN MVA. ADB also serves as the SASEC secretariat. According to ADB, the economic corridors in the sub-region, “…will help optimize development gains in the subregion, including industrial growth and competitiveness, the creation of high-quality jobs, increased productivity, and strengthening existing value chains.”
With Myanmar being added recently to the SASEC initiative, ADB wants the use the nation to act as the bridge between the BBIN network and Southeast Asia as well as with China and global markets beyond. It is estimated that cargo travelling through road will take less time to reach India than through ships.