Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal today signed a framework agreement allowing movement of personal, passenger and cargo vehicles through roadways among the four countries.
The Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) was signed in Thimphu, Bhutan at a meeting of Transport Ministers of the four SAARC countries aimed at boosting road connectivity in the region, said a joint statement issued after the meeting.
Obaidul Quader, Minister of Road Transport and Bridges, signed the agreement on behalf of Bangladesh as the cabinet approved the draft of the ‘Motor Vehicles Agreement’ on June 8.
“The finalization of the BBIN MVA would allow us to move forward, in an accelerated fashion, with implementation of land transport facilitation arrangements between and among our countries,” the joint statement said.
This would enable the exchange of traffic rights and ease cross-border movement of goods, vehicles, and people, thereby helping expand people-to-people contact, trade, and economic exchanges among the countries, it added.
“We recognize that the BBIN MVA is a complementary instrument to the existing transport agreements or arrangements at the bilateral levels that the contracting parties will continue to honor,” it said.
The statement says that the transport ministers of the four countries have agreed that they would endeavor to carry out a six-month work plan from July to December 2015 for the implementation of the BBIN MVA.
The ministers also recalled strong determination expressed by the heads of state and governments at the 18th SAARC Summit held in Nepal last year “to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia by intensifying cooperation in different areas including trade, investment, energy, security and connectivity.
“We further recall their renewed commitment to substantially enhance regional connectivity in a seamless manner through building and upgrading roads, railways, waterways infrastructure, energy grids, communications and air links to ensure smooth cross-border flow of goods, services, capital, technology and people,” it added.
Expressing satisfaction over progress of improving physical road connectivity among the countries, the statement said that the ADB-supported South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation program is helping enhance interconnectivity in the four countries.
“We recognize that our four countries comprise a dynamic sub-region, which requires efficient land transport connectivity between the concentrations of supply and demand, which are widely dispersed,” it added.
The statement said that 30 priority transport connectivity projects with an estimated total cost of over 8 billion US dollars have been identified, which will rehabilitate and upgrade remaining sections of trade and transport corridors in the four countries. “We take note of the finding that transforming transport corridors into economic corridors could potentially increase intraregional trade within South Asia by almost 60% and with the rest of the world by over 30%,” it added.
The meeting also took a decision to hold a “BBIN Friendship Motor Rally” in October this year to highlight the sub-regional connectivity and the scope and opportunities for greater people-to-people contact and trade under the BBIN initiative.