BBIN transport service not from Jan

Shariful Hasan | Update:

Uncertainty looms over the functioning of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement though the direct transportation among the four countries was planned to start in January, 2016.

The framework of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement was supposed to be signed in Bhutanese capital Thimphu on Monday, but it did not happen.

Though Bangladesh and India are ready for the agreement, the present political crisis between India and Nepal, and Bhutan’s delay in ratifying the agreement, have raised question over the implementation of the agreement.

The BBIN Friendship Motor Rally under the Motor Vehicle Agreement did not enter Nepal considering Nepal-India’s current relations. Representatives of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan in the rally did not accept the fact that India had no government official in its 58-member team.

Moreover, representatives of Nepal and Bhutan could not take easily India’s interest to contact only with Bangladesh over the agreement.

While inaugurating a discussion of BBIN on Monday, road transport and bridges minster Obaidul Quader urged all to break down all the walls of confusion and doubts.

“If Europe can go ahead by surpassing all the obstructions of borders, why can’t we?” said Obaidul Quader.

Indian high commissioner to Dhaka Pankaj Saran echoed the same on Tuesday, saying, “Regional connectivity is the most important thing in this era of economic development. And so, we’ll surpass all obstacles to achieve that.”

The transport ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal signed the framework of agreement on 15 June in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.

Ahead of signing of a protocol between the four countries for movement of passenger and personal vehicles in December this year, everything to implement the agreement was supposed to be completed by October and primarily six routes were identified for this.

A test run and a motor rally between the four countries were supposed to start on 14 November.

Ever since a new constitution was unveiled on 20 September in Nepal, the Terai has been in turmoil. The people of the region - the Madhesis - are up in arms against what they perceive as discrimination. They have imposed an economic blockade, which means they allow no traffic on the trade routes with India. Trucks have lined up on both sides of the border and shortages - particularly of food and fuel - are beginning to be felt in the hilly region.

Nepal blames India for backing the Madhesis in their protest that sparks fire between the two neighbours. Though four representatives took part in the motor rally, no framework regarding the agreement has been ratified from the Nepalese parliament.

When asked about this, a Nepalese representative in the rally Dashrath Risil, also representative of Nepal’s youth and sports ministry told Prothom Alo, “It could have been great if the motor rally entered Nepal. But, considering present situation, it has been cancelled.”

About the final framework of BBIN motor vehicle agreement, another representative Prakash Kapoori said, “It’s hard to predict when the agreement would be completed. It can happen sooner or later; everything depends on situation. However, Nepal is hopeful of the agreement.”

Diplomatic sources said Bhutan is taking time as it is considering its gains and losses from the agreement.

However, Bhutanese representative Wangchuk said, “We are very keen to see the agreement implementation. The BBIN MVA draft has been tabled in Bhutanese parliament but the parliament said to scrutinise it further. I believe the parliament will pass the agreement in its summer sessions.”

A total of 58 representatives from India, six from Bangladesh, four from Nepal and four from Bhutan took part in the motor rally.

Host of the motor rally, India was blamed for sending no government representative to the rally.

Chief of India delegation, Praveen Chandra Bhanj Deo and also a member of parliament in Orissa told Prothom Alo, “We are the representatives of Indian government. We’ll submit a report to the government over the rally.” Praveen thinks visa is the prime problem for regional connectivity between the four countries.

When Bangladesh’s transport and highways division secretary MAN Siddique was aksed when the BBIN MVA will be in effect, he said, “We, Bangladesh, are fully prepared for the agreement implementation and so is India. But, Nepal and Bhutan did not say anything officially. There’ll be meetings of BBIN on 3 and 4 December. I hope several issues will be clear, then,” he added.

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