KATHMANDU: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) are set to sign a framework Motor Vehicle Agreement in Thimphu next week, which could effectively mark the beginning of a sub-regional cooperation within a few of the eight-member SAARC regional bloc.
Transport ministers of BBIN — a sub-regional grouping within the SAARC — are travelling to the Bhutanese capital so as to finalise the agreement on June 15.
Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bimalendra Nidhi is leaving for Thimphu for the same on Saturday.
Nepali vehicles will reach B’desh thru India sans any hassle
After the MVA, the countries comprising BBIN will have to ink separate bilateral agreements to implement it, officials said.
Once MVA comes into effect, the passenger, personal or cargo vehicles of any of BBIN member states can have seamless travel access to another country without any hassle or difficulty during transit, said Transport Secretary Tulasi Prasad Sitaula, who is also accompanying Nidhi to Thimphu.
Officials said MVA would particularly ease trade and travel between Nepal and Bangladesh, which have so far been facing transit difficulties. A Nepali citizen will be able to travel to Bangladesh in his/her own vehicle via India without any bureaucratic hassle in the transit country once MVA is implemented.
Officials said signing of the BBIN agreement would promote safe, economically efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration.
“BBIN concept seems to have been introduced because of the realisation that the SAARC process has been too slow,” said Nischal Nath Pandey, Director, Centre for South Asian Studies. “The four countries can have similar cooperation in other areas such as energy and trade.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November, had pitched the idea of sub-regional cooperation among a few of its member states if SAARC failed to do so across the region.
The Kathmandu Declaration of the SAARC Summit also encouraged member states to initiate regional and sub-regional measures to enhance connectivity as well as promote trade and energy cooperation.
Accordingly, it was considered appropriate that a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal be pursued.
BBIN-MVA deal is expected to push forward a pending SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement, which couldn’t finalise due to Pakistan’s reservation during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu.
Ramesh Khanal, who heads the SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said BBIN agreement would be supplementary to a pending SAARC-MVA, which, according to him, is also likely to be sealed through a SAARC transport ministerial meeting due in Kathmandu in July or August.