India makes fresh pitch to fast track regional road connectivity plan with Nepal, Bangladesh
Union minister Nitin Gadkari wrote to the ministry of external affairs last month to take “necessary diplomatic interventions” to secure Bangladesh’s commitment to the BBIN motor vehicle agreement.india Updated: Oct 09, 2017 09:00 IST
Worried that the ambitious sub regional road connectivity plan pushed by PM Narendra Modi might not take off with Bhutan backing out last year and more recently Bangladesh also expressing its reluctance, India has made a fresh pitch to fast track the BBIN (Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal) motor vehicle agreement.
Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari wrote to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj last month to take “necessary diplomatic interventions” to secure the commitment of Bangladesh at the top political level to implement the important agreement for regional connectivity in a “phased manner.”
After Bhutan did not ratify the BBIN pact year following domestic opposition, India had decided to operationalize it with the other two members – Bangladesh and Nepal. But Bangladesh has now developed cold feet. It backed out of a meeting called by India in Bangalore last month to finalize the protocol to make the MV agreement operational.
The pact will allow seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the three countries.
Gadkari has said that Bangladesh has taken a technical view that the MV agreement has to be ratified by all four countries to make it operational.
In his letter to Swaraj, Gadkari said Bangladesh is reluctant to implement the MV agreement in a phased manner without Bhutan. Gadkari said India should secure Bangladesh and Nepal’s commitment now and Bhutan’s in due course and ensure that the BBIN agreement signed in Thimpu in 2015 is “taken to its logical conclusion.”
HT had on September 14 reported that Bangladesh has written to India that it cannot attend the meeting to finalize the protocol till such time Bhutan makes its “formal stance” on the agreement clear.
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 bilateral motor vehicle agreement with Nepal and Bangladesh but a multilateral pact would go a long way in boosting trade in the region.