With a view to developing the regional transport network, the SAARC secretariat in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank is geared to carry out a study on “SAARC Regional Multi-modal Transport” in South Asia. The SAARC experts on regional cooperation and regional multi-modal transport connectivity have highlighted the need to expand transport network in South Asia in order to strengthen trade, tourism and other economic activities. They have argued that since the environment for regional cooperation has improved in South Asia, the time is appropriate to start the programme.

It would certainly be beneficial in more ways than one for the people of this region, majority of who still live in abject poverty, if the plan succeeded. Cheaper, easier and faster travelling will also contribute to the communication network, considered most essential in today’s globalised world. The road links, for instance, would provide a unique opportunity for the people of the region to come in constant contact with each other without much difficulty. Such a plan would also bridge the existing gap amongst the people of the SAARC countries. A strong people-to-people contact based on cultural exchanges will promote understanding at the people’s level and ultimately the SAARC nations as a whole.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Nepal’s proposal for a direct bus link between Nepal and Bangladesh is now under consideration at the Bangladeshi communications ministry. If the plan goes as expected, it would give a boost to the bilateral ties between the two neighbours. However, it is important to point out here that initiatives of the kind have not been totally successful in the past. The much-vaunted Kathmandu-Lhasa bus service was interrupted recently after the Chinese Embassy in Nepal said that the passengers require visas to enter Tibet. The Nepali tour operators and the passengers too have to understand that visa is required and it is up to the Chinese Embassy to give or deny it. All embassies reserve the right to scrutinise travellers for different reasons. Instead of being embarrassed later, it is therefore better to fulfil all the formalities and understand diplomatic rules and regulations. The parties concerned in Nepal have to be well-informed about what is involved in operating bus services.