SAARC agrees on regional connectivity

Kathmandu, January 1:

The meeting of inter-governmental committee at the secretary level of the SAARC nations held in Islamabad recently have agreed to develop transport connectivity in the region to enhance regional trade. However, the final approval — for implementation the study on ‘SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport (SRMT)’ — will be taken during the next SAARC summit.

One of the participants from Nepal, Purushottam Ojha, joint secretary at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies, informed that the meeting adopted SRMT study, which would be implemented latter on in a bid to establish transport connectivity in the SAARC region. Various issues as to road corridors, rail corridors, inland waterways and aviation gateways, among others were adopted at the first meeting of regional multi-modal transport held in Islamabad on December 26-28. As per the decisions of the meeting, member states have agreed to expand air services between the capitals of SAARC nations to boost regional tourism. Similarly, development of 10 regional road corridors, five regional rail corridors, two regional inland water and 16 aviation gateways are some of the other recommendations of the meeting.

“Despite discussions on various issues, there are still certain barriers like missing linkages of developing infrastructures, harmonization of customs, visa facilitations for businesspersons and simplification of transport procedures,” according to Ojha.

The SAARC Summit held on January 4-6, in Pakistan had adopted the idea to develop regional transport connectivity. The meeting had also recommended liberalising visa regime of the SAARC countries that should be applicable by road, rail and inland waterways. Similarly, the meeting had also decided to review laws and regulations to improve efficient operation of the port, widen existing SAARC visa exemption scheme to provide regional travel by its citizen within the region, improve road networks in Bihar, West Bengal and Bangladesh to assist Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh in reducing transit and transport costs.

According to the foreign ministry, Nepal has proposed Kakarbhitta, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, Dhangadi, Birgunj, Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj as its transport corridors.