Bangladesh stalls PM Modi’s road link plan
CROSSBORDER TRADE Neighbour says all four member nations of the initiative, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, must ratify it Without the formal consent of Bhutan, this provision technically restricts the other three countries to move ahead with the plan for phased implementation of the agreement...
The ambitious sub-regional road connectivity plan involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN), an initiative that was being pushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to boost regional integration, seems to have hit another roadblock.
After Bhutan decided not to ratify the BBIN motor vehicle (MV) agreement last year following domestic opposition, India had decided to operationalise the pact with the other two members — Bangladesh and Nepal.
But government sources said Bangladesh has now thrown a spanner to India’s plan by expressing its inability to come on board till the time Bhutan makes its “formal stance” on the agreement clear. Sources said Bangladesh backed out of the proposed meeting of the three countries called by India’s Union road transport and highways ministry on September 7-8 at Bangalore to finalise the protocol to make the MV agreement operational.
Though India, Bangladesh and Nepal have ratified the pact, unless protocols are finalised, the MV agreement cannot be implemented.
In a written communication to India, Bangladesh cited Article XVI of the BBIN which mandates that the MV agreement has to be ratified by all four countries to make it operational.
“Hence, without the formal consent of Bhutan, this provision technically restricts the other three countries to move ahead with the plan for phased implementation of the agreement,” the Bangladesh government has communicated to India.
The pact will allow seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries.
Under the BBIN agreement the “contracting parties” will allow cargo vehicles for inter-country cargo including third country cargo and passenger vehicles or personal vehicles to ply in the territory of another contracting country “subject to the terms of the agreement”.
“In the above circumstances, the proposed three country meeting through the invitation of MoRTH, India at Bangalore would not be fruitful at this moment,” the communication further states.
The BBIN agreement was signed in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu in June 2015.
This is the second time that the Indian government’s sub regional road connectivity plan has hit a stumbling block. Earlier Pakistan scuppered the SAARC motor vehicle agreement by refusing to come on board.
Currently, India only has a bilateral motor vehicle agreement with Nepal and Bangladesh but a multilateral pact would go a long way in boosting trade in the region.