Unresolved issues stall implementation of BBIN agreement

Kathmandu, October 25

Signatories of BBIN motor vehicle agreement — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal — have to sort out various issues to bring the motor vehicle agreement into implementation. Among the four countries, Nepal, Bangladesh and India have already ratified the agreement, which has paved the way to implement the pact in the three countries.

Bhutan will ratify the agreement after its parliament endorses it. The agreement will be submitted to the next parliament, which will be constituted after the parliamentary polls in mid-2018.

Nepal, Bangladesh and India have started discussions to bring the agreement into implementation. During the recently held stakeholders interaction, organised by New Delhi-based think-tank Delhi Policy Group in Dhaka, experts and stakeholders highlighted a raft of issues that need to be sorted out to bring the pact into effect.

“First, we need to harmonise the local laws related to transport with the BBIN motor vehicle agreement,” said RB Rauniyar, a transit and transport expert. “Transport laws of Bangladesh allow only eight tonnes as extra load for trucks, however, it is 10.2 tonnes in India and Nepal.”

Without harmonisation and uniformity in the transport laws of the signatories, it will be difficult to bring the agreement into implementation, he added.

Likewise, another challenging aspect in the implementation of the agreement is related with the fare of truckers. Indian truckers are comparatively cheaper in the sub-region. Once the agreement comes into force, Indian truckers will have a dominating presence in each country, according to Rauniyar.

“Truckers of the other countries should also be accorded a level playing field.”

Indian truckers have been ferrying Nepal-bound cargoes since long, however, Nepali trucks are not allowed to enter the Indian territory. After the enforcement of the agreement, there will be seamless movement of vehicles as envisioned by the BBIN motor vehicle agreement.

Stakeholders have also urged for a compatible system for electronic data interchange (EDI), through which the customs points of the participating countries can share the data of vehicles of one country entering another member country. Nepal and Bangladesh use Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) software at the customs that can be interfaced for EDI, however, Indian customs use IceGate as EDI gateway. All the member countries have to develop a compatible system for electronic data interchange, according to experts.

Also, a common loading and unloading hub is a must for vehicles that ferry goods to each other’s country. Siliguri in the Indian state of West Bengal is the preliminary choice as the loading and unloading hub for truckers. It is expected to not only reduce the cost and time of trade but the loading and unloading process will also be hassle free if the trucks of the member nations can establish seamless movement across the region, which is also expected to boost regional trade.

There are other issues like fear of arms being transported and chances of unauthorised trade, as per the stakeholders, which requires a strong security system and electronic data interchange system to control such anomalies.