Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) have signed a regional motor vehicle agreement, paving the way of free movement of both people and goods among the four SAARC member countries.
The signing on Monday at the Bhutanese capital Thimphu contrasts the SAARC’s collective failure to ink such a deal in last year’s Nov summit, blamed mainly on Pakistan’s reservations.
Transport ministers of the four countries signed the agreement, Chargé d'affaires of Bangladesh embassy in Bhutan Md Anisur Rahman told bdnews24.com.
With the signing of the agreement, sub-regional connectivity will receive a boost.
The agreement has three components—movements of individual vehicle, passenger vehicles and cargo.
It is expected that after the signing Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will flag off a vehicle that will run on the Thimphu- Bhutan-Gowahati-Shillong-Sylhet-Benapole-Kolkata route.
Bangladesh’s Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader before leaving for Bhutan said it would take few months to prepare the protocols before the pact could be implemented.
He hoped it would begin early next year on a limited scale.
“This would open a new avenue of economic prosperity,” Dhaka-based think-tank CPD’s Executive Director Mustafizur Rahman told bdnews24.com.
Bangladesh’s trade with India, Bhutan and Nepal was growing, though according to the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it was still in favour of those countries.
Bangladesh imports goods worth around $25 million from Bhutan but its exports to that country is only around $2 million.
Trade is heavily tilted towards India.
Nepal’s exports stands at $35.6 million compared to Bangladesh’s $26.41 million.
Land ports are mainly used for Bangladesh’s trade with these three neighbours.
Dhaka-based envoys of India, Bhutan and Nepal along with a Bangladesh foreign ministry official last year travelled through the land ports of the the four SAARC countries to inspect the road connections and border infrastructure that businesses use.
With the signing, Bangladeshis truckers will be able to go to Bhutan and Nepal using India. At the same time, India will be able to carry goods using Bangladesh.
“This will increase our trade. But we must develop our own infrastructure for getting maximum benefits of this deal,” Prof Rahman said, suggesting roads development and improvement of border infrastructure.
“India’s $2 billion line of credit can be used for developing our infrastructure,” he said, pointing at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement during his just concluded Dhaka visit.