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‘Vehicular movement among India, Bangla and 3 others would be game changer’

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March 1 :The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA) would be a game-changer for regional co-operation in South Asia and that requires a number of enablers for its efficient execution, a report said quoting experts.

An in-depth study report, released on Thursday, prepared by Jaipur-based NGO Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), said that the BBIN MVA would be a game changer for regional cooperation if it is successfully implemented involving the maximum number of stakeholders.

The four South Asian nations signed the BBIN agreement in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu in June 2016, in what was seen as a first model of sub-regional cooperation. The agreement would allow passengers, personal, and cargo vehicular traffic among the four countries.

Bhutan is yet to ratify the agreement. According to CUTS International officials, the implementation of the agreement is expected to begin in the second half of 2018.

The CUTS report was prepared following an in-depth study and a national policy dialogue on “Enabling and Inclusive Policy and Political Economy Discourse for Trade, Transport and Transit Facilitation in and among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal — Facilitating Implementation and Stakeholder in the Bay of Bengal Region” in New Delhi on February 27.

CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee said that the New Delhi meeting highlighted a number of significant initiatives contributing towards better connectivity and seamless movement of people and cargo.

“The New Delhi dialogue emphasised on ensuring better connectivity by addressing bottlenecks in physical infrastructure and procedural barriers, generating political consensus for connectivity initiatives, and why they should be looked at from gender and other dimensions of social inclusiveness for a better local buy-in,” Chatterjee told the media.

The CUTS report quoting Commissioner (Customs and Export Promotion) under Central Board of Excise and Customs Sandeep Kumar, said: “With the help of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System and a better conformity assessment system, which are in place in India, the BBIN MVA would become a successful model for regional cooperation.”

“Rail connectivity for people-to-people contacts between India and Bangladesh are being extended. Setting up of “Border Haats” and their gradual development are undertaken to foster better bilateral as well as regional cooperation,” the report said quoting Sandeep Kumar.

CUTS’ Associate Director Prithviraj Nath stressed on the fact that along with the soft and hard infrastructural bottlenecks, political nuances also pose challenges towards the execution of the BBIN MVA.

Nath suggested a model of better local buy-in to address these issues by highlighting their gains that can reap through this agreement and other related initiatives.

According to Duncan Overfield, Senior Regional Economic Adviser and Deputy Head, Asia Regional Team of the UK’s Department for International Development, the success of the BBIN MVA and other such initiatives would depend on the level of private sector engagement and the strength of institutional arrangements for regional cooperation.

“Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation can play a vital role,” said Overfield.

Chad Norberg, Trade and Technology Unit Chief at the US Embassy in New Delhi emphasised that the implementation of the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement would help these countries to better implement the BBIN MVA and other connectivity initiatives.

India’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Deputy Secretary A.D. James underlined the importance of local level capacity building, among others, for an effective implementation of the BBIN MVA.(Agencies)

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