BBIN Updates and Discussion

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by r2d2 ka baap, Jun 12, 2015.

  1. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative

    BBIN.png


    The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative is a sub-regional coordinative architecture of countries in South Asia.[1] It operates through Joint Working Groups (JWG) comprising official representation from each member state that meet for consultative discussions on formulation, implementation and review of quadrilateral agreements. Areas of joint cooperation have included water resources management, integration and connectivity of power grids, multi-modal transport, cargo transit and trade infrastructure. [2]


    Background

    The group was formed after informal meetings that gradually developed into a consensus towards the need for sub regional connectivity beyond bilateral agreements. It was given greater impetus following the failure of other regional cooperation mechanisms to deliver substantial change in trade, power and infrastructural linkages. [3] The November 2014 SAARC summit held at Kathmandu saw widespread approval of a proposed land transport connectivity agreement by regional states, apart from the reservations of one country which caused the accord to fall through. However, the Summit Declaration encouraged sub regional initiatives in the effort to strive for greater regional connectivity. A framework for cooperation between four regional countries was subsequently realized.[4]

    Framework

    Through the regular meeting of Joint Working Groups, representatives of the four nations explore avenues of further cooperation, exchange experiences, views and best practices across across several sectors, review data sharing arrangements for disaster mitigation and environmental forecasting, as well as strengthen measures to facilitate transit such as shared border stations on important routes and harmonized customs procedures.[5] The priority for member states has been identified as "connectivity",[6] encompassing electricity, shared access by and to road, rail, air and port infrastructure, and ease of travel. To this end, a sub regional Motor Vehicle Agreement allows buses and eventually private vehicles with a BBIN permit to travel freely without border impediments between the four countries.[7] Although such initiatives further augment trade ties and commerce between the sub regional countries,[8] the importance accorded to the architecture as an alternative to others, in a region considered amongst the least integrated in the world,[9]has been interpreted as bearing significant political and strategic undertones.[10]


    Member States

    member.png


    Meetings of Joint Working Groups

    The next session of JWG presided over by Ministers of Transport is tentatively scheduled for June 15, 2015, for signing of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic.[4]

    JWG.png
     
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  3. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    @Yusuf not sure if this should be stickied or merged, but couldn't see anything covering this quadrilateral grouping which in my opinion has the best chance at extremely close, uninterrupted economic integration for south asia over the long term.

    India explores scope for power trade with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal

    NEW DELHI: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) today discussed the scope for power trade and inter-grid connectivity between themselves and decided to explore the possibility of using multi-modal transport to meet commercial as well as tourist needs.

    The issues figured during the second meetings of the Joint Working Groups (JWGs) of these countries on sub-regional Cooperation on Water Resources Management and Power/Hydropower and on Connectivity and Transit.

    The Indian delegations, led by Joint Secretary Abhay Thakur and Joint Secretary Sripriya Ranganathan in the External Affairs Ministry, welcomed the opportunity for exchanging views on the possibilities for cooperation at a sub-regional level for mutual benefit.

    The JWG on Water Resources Management and Power/Hydropower reviewed the existing cooperation in the sector and discussed the scope for power trade and inter-grid connectivity between these countries as well as the potential for closer cooperation in future power projects, an MEA release said as the two-day meetings concluded today.

    "It was agreed that joint efforts would be made to explore harnessing of water resources, including hydropower and power, from other sources available in the sub-region. It was also agreed to exchange lists of potential future hydropower/power projects to be undertaken jointly involving at least three countries on an equitable basis," it said.

    The JWG also took stock of the existing bilateral arrangements between these countries on data sharing for flood forecasting and discussed ways of improving the same.

    The JWG on Connectivity and Transit reviewed existing arrangements and agreed on the significance of BBIN agreements to enable movement of motor vehicles and railways.

    "The meeting exchanged ideas on potential cargo (both road and railway) and bus routes involving at least three countries in addition to the existing bilateral routes and agreed to share suggestions in this regard. They also decided to explore the possibility of using multi-modal transport to meet commercial as well as tourist needs," it said.

    The JWG deliberated on the need for trade facilitation at land border stations for effective sub-regional connectivity and also exchanged views on the usefulness of sharing trade infrastructure at land border stations and harmonisation of customs procedures, according to the official release.

    The next meeting of the JWGs would be held in the second half of 2015 in Bangladesh.


     
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  4. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    Pegging Sub-regionalism with Bilateralism

    Smruti S Pattanaik

    The successful conclusion of Prime Minister Modi's visit to Dhaka is important for both its content and symbolism. The 60-point Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and 22 agreements that were exchanged between the two countries provide an insight into the huge potential the two countries have in building a fruitful relationship. Modi's visit was also symbolic and he succeeded in winning the heart of the people with his use of Bangla in his speech.

    His visit reflects a continuum in the foreign policy charted by the previous government. It attested to the fact that there exists a bipartisan consensus among the political class in India to take the relationship further. It silenced the sceptics on both sides of the border, especially those who perceived Prime Minister Modi only as a leader of a Hindu nationalist party and felt that it would not exhibit the same bonhomie as was seen between the Awami League government and the Congress Party that led the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. After proving his detractors wrong Prime Minister Modi assured that India will deliver on its promises to Bangladesh.

    The unanimous political consensus that was displayed during the passage of the LBA and his ability to generate a consensus in the Parliament attested his ability to move beyond party lines and ideological divide. Keeping the controversy out of the bilateral context of some agreements he said, “We are successful fellow travellers on the road to development.” Few important points in the MoU deserve attention as they have the potential to transform the bilateral relations as the documents succinctly captured the objectives when it described it as Notun Projonmo-Nayi Disha.

    The sub-regional content was provided prominence in the MoU and it attested that the two countries would take the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) framework to optimise the cooperation and move beyond the bilateral framework on issues of regional connectivity, power generation and grid connectivity. The BBIN countries have already agreed to sign a multimodal transport agreement in February this year and they are going to finalise the agreement this month when the four countries meet in Dhaka.

    Connectivity has been a major issue in this sub-region that had in the past acted as a single economic unit in the past. While SAARC failed to take up the regional multi-modal transport connectivity to its logical conclusion due to the unwillingness of Islamabad, the four countries decided that they will move ahead with sub-regional connectivity while striving to achieve regional connectivity. These countries are also part of the larger Asian Highway and railway network.

    Bangladesh and India are also part of the BCIM corridor. Furthermore, these countries are working for connectivity within the BIMSTEC countries. BIMSTEC electricity grid and Free Trade Agreement are being planned to integrate this region to the South East Asian countries. India has extended a further line of credit of $2 billion- a substantial part of which is going to be spent on improving road network which forms a large part of connectivity apart from rail and waterways that have been the lifeline of economy in this region. India's assurance to enhance the navigability of the waterways will help to keep the channel open throughout the year and help in trade.

    Private players have been brought in to provide necessary capital investment in generating power. Two Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) have been signed between Power Development Board of Bangladesh and two Indian companies – Adani Power Limited and Reliance Group – to set up 4,600-megawatt power plants in Bangladesh. Jointly they are going to invest $5.5 billion. Already the India-Bangladesh joint venture company, the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company, is engaged in the Rampal power project that would generate 1320 MW of power. There was a proposal to enhance grid connectivity to connect the Western side of Bangladesh to the Indian electricity grid and to increase supply of power to Bangladesh to 1000MW using the Bheramara-Berhampur grid interconnection. The annual energy dialogue would help the two countries to undertake comprehensive cooperation covering the entire gamut of energy resources.

    The announcement of Special Economic Zones in Mongla and Bheramara would further help in addressing the huge trade gap by producing commodities keeping in mind the large Indian market. The two countries are going to further improve the Land Custom Station in the border for smooth facilitation of trade. The coastal shipping arrangement will open new avenues for boosting economic ties. The MoU to provide the usage of Mongla and Chittagong ports to India constitutes a significant aspect and should be seen in the larger context of sub-regional connectivity and trade. With the demarcation of the Maritime boundary, the two countries have now decided to increase their cooperation on Blue economy in the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean.

    What has been a very significant aspect of the visit is India's assurance on reaching an interim agreement on the sharing of Teesta as well as the larger issue of sharing of international rivers. India assured Bangladesh that it would take the country along while deciding on the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric project. It would not take any unilateral action on the Himalayan component of the river interlinking project, thereby, assuaging anxiety over the issue. Both the countries reached an understanding for a project under the India Endowment for Climate Change in SAARC.

    Flagging off new bus services – the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus services along with the opening of a Deputy High Commission office in Guwahati, upgrading Bangladesh Visa office in Agartala, opening of Assistant High Commissions of India in Khulna and Sylhet, and the liberalisation of the visa regime will certainly help in greater connectivity between the people.

    Without the connectivity of mind, physical connectivity becomes difficult to sustain. Prime Minister Modi's meeting with Begum Khaleda Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), also sends the right message that India is willing to engage with all the political stakeholders in Bangladesh to transcend bilateral ties.

    As Modi underlined the reality of geographical proximity combined with the excellent working relationship that the two countries share, the dream of Notun Projonmo is truly not very far.
     
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  5. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    Modi’s Dhaka Visit: A Paradigm Shift In India-Bangladesh Relations – Analysis

    By Rupak Bhattacharjee

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s just-concluded Dhaka visit is set to take India-Bangladesh ties to an extraordinary height. The two countries inked as many as 22 agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) covering diverse areas of cooperation, including trade and investment, road, railways, waterways, energy and power cooperation, security, science and technology, communication and cultural exchange. Some of the existing pacts were also renewed.

    The officials of both nations exchanged the instruments of ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and its 2011 protocol in the presence of Prime Minister Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina to implement the transfer of territories. India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar termed the LBA, which has permanently resolved the six-decade-old boundary dispute between the two South Asian neighbours as the “centrepiece” of Modi’s visit.

    The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has all along been stressing that New Delhi seeks to build “comprehensive and equitable partnership” with Bangladesh to ensure a “stable, secure and prosperous South Asia”. India is fully aware of the importance of its eastern neighbour Bangladesh for strategic, security and economic reasons. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently noted that India’s “Act East” policy starts with Bangladesh.

    Dhaka too had been eagerly awaiting the first bilateral visit of Modi since he assumed office in May 2014. Perhaps no other foreign nation evinces so much interest in that country as does India, which encircles Bangladesh from three sides. The people of Bangladesh have huge expectations from their bigger neighbour and the ruling Awami League (AL) depends on India’s crucial support to fulfill their aspirations.

    A visibly happy Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina described India as the most important neighbour of Bangladesh and one of the key development partners, while Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali observed that the bilateral relations have reached “historic heights”.

    The Modi-led 12-member Indian delegation, including Foreign Secretary Jaishankar, held extensive talks with the Bangladesh side headed by Hasina, encompassing the entire gamut of bilateral relations and explored ways to further strengthen ties. Boosting trade and connectivity, especially people-to-people contacts had been the focus of Modi’s visit. The bilateral issues that Dhaka accorded priority were Teesta, killing of Bangladeshis along the international border, trade imbalance and cooperation in the power sector.

    Modi also met Leader of Opposition in parliament Roushan Ershad, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia and several left politicians and exchanged views with them. Such interactions were quite significant as they helped the Bangladeshi political leaders to create consensus on major foreign policy issues. The seemingly unending feuds and fierce rivalries among the Bangladeshi ruling elite often denies the country an opportunity to reach common ground on Dhaka’s foreign relations, especially with an immediate neighbour like India.

    The Teesta is a big political issue in Bangladesh and has been one of the highest priorities in its relations with India in recent years. Being a lower riparian country, Bangladesh expects India to settle the Teesta river sharing question in a spirit of accommodation. Considering the sensitivity attached to the issue and its importance in the political dynamics of that country, the Modi government, which had earlier decided to exclude Teesta from the list of deals finalised for signing during the bilateral summit and stated that the prime minister would refrain from making any statement on the issue, subsequently changed its position. After meeting Mamata in Dhaka, Modi said river should not be a source of discord between India and Bangladesh. He assured Bangladesh of finding a mutually acceptable solution to the sharing of Teesta and Feni river waters soon. It appears that Bangladesh’s political leadership has taken Modi’s words seriously.

    Connectivity is another area where Modi’s neighbourhood diplomacy scored points. During their one-on-one talks, Modi and Hasina agreed to enhance connectivity for development in South Asia. Both the sides finalised a Motor Vehicles Agreement between Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India (BBIN) likely to be signed in Thimphu on June 15. This initiative would significantly contribute towards augmenting trade and commerce among the four South Asian neighbours.

    The agreements on connectivity inked during the visit were: Guwahati- Shillong-Dhaka and Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus services, Kolkata-Khulna train service, coastal shipping between the two countries and use of Chittagong and Mongla ports. The Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade was renewed for five more years. India also granted a fresh soft loan of $2 billion to Bangladesh for use in connectivity projects. The opening of new bus routes and restoration of old railways and waterways between the two countries would not only make the movement of cargo between India’s eastern and northeastern states and Bangladesh much cheaper and faster but also expand people-to-people relations.

    The visit has strengthened cooperation in power and energy sectors too. On June 6, deals worth $5.5 billion were inked between the Power Development Board of Bangladesh and Indian companies Adani Power Limited and Reliance Group to build 4,600 MW power plants in that country. Moreover, New Delhi agreed to supply additional 600 MW electricity to Bangladesh by developing infrastructure. For power-starved-Bangladesh, which is currently getting only 500 MW from different Indian grids, these deals are immensely beneficial. Responding to Dhaka’s long-standing demand, India also agreed to export 1 million ton of diesel per year from Assam’s Numaligarh Refinery.

    Trade is a key component of India’s multi-faceted ties with Bangladesh and the two sides decided to further boost it by enhancing investment in each other’s country. Bangladesh has emerged as India’s largest trading partner in South Asia. However, the trade imbalance has been steadily increasing over the years. In their bids to contain the imbalance, the two governments agreed to build two Special Economic Zones for India in Bangladesh.

    The leaders of two countries also tried to address some of the persisting security problems, like transnational crimes and cross-border terrorism. Both the sides signed MoUs to prevent all forms of human trafficking, smuggling and circulation of fake currency notes. The visit assumes significance against the backdrop of resurgence of religious extremism in Bangladesh and both the nations have reiterated their zero tolerance towards extremism and terrorism. The governments of the two countries need to maintain constant vigil on divisive forces and intensify security cooperation because the northeastern militants and the religious extremists often unite to subvert the friendly bilateral ties.

    India’s engagement with Bangladesh has deepened and broadened following Hasina’s assumption of power in 2009. She enjoys the goodwill of India for her bold and persistent efforts to address India’s vital security concerns. The Indian media had been highlighting this aspect during the visit.

    Realising the complexities of a federal polity like India, the Awami League has been in regular touch with various ruling parties to promote Bangladesh’s causes. Hasina’s growing cordial ties with the Left government of Tripura and the AL government’s decision to honour former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his valuable contribution to the independence of Bangladesh demonstrate her firm resolve to maintain close ties with India. Modi reciprocated Hasina’s outreach as “Act East” policy, in which Bangladesh figures prominently, has been made his government’s major foreign policy plank. This ground-breaking visit has changed the course of India-Bangladesh ties even without Teesta — the most intractable bilateral problem. This is where Modi’s neighbourhood diplomacy has triumphed.
     
  6. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    Government of India
    Cabinet​

    10-June-2015 13:59 IST​
    Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic amongst BBIN

    Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic amongst BBIN The Cabinet has approved signing of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic amongst BBIN. The agreement will be signed on 15th June at the BBIN Transport Minister’s meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan.

    Signing of the BBIN agreement will promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and will further help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration. BBIN countries will be benefited by mutual cross border movement of passenger and goods for overall economic development of the region. The people of the four countries will benefit through seamless movement of goods and passenger across borders.

    Each Party will bear its own costs arising from implementation of this agreement.

    A meeting of Secretaries of Transport of the BBIN countries was organized by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway (MoRTH) in February 2015 to discuss and finalize the text of the draft BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement, which is similar to the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) draft with minor changes.

    Background:

    The Union Cabinet had approved a proposal to sign the SAARC MVA during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014. Unfortunately, it could not be signed due to reservations of Pakistan. The SAARC declaration at the Kathmandu Summit in November 2014 also encouraged Member States to initiate regional and sub-regional measures to enhance connectivity. Accordingly, it was considered appropriate that a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) may be pursued.
     
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  7. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    Setting the tone for future

    RAJEEV SHARMA


    India and Bangladesh today are far closer and friendly neighbors than they were ever before since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. The just-concluded visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh (June 6-7) has contributed immensely to the India-Bangladesh bonhomie.

    In fact the great irony is that the South Asian neighbors, which share a 4,096-km-long border are actually neck deep in a strategic partnership, though neither side is claiming so or flaunting this status. Indeed still waters run deep.

    China and Pakistan are the two powers most affected by increase of India’s influence in Bangladesh. Pakistan has witnessed a steady downturn of its influence in Bangladesh ever since Begum Khaleda Zia’s tenure ended about a decade ago.

    But the real strategic game now being played in Bangladesh is between China and India. Much like everywhere else China has significantly expanded its strategic footprints in Bangladesh.

    China has made deep strategic forays into such Bangladeshi areas as ports, highways, power, defense and trade and economy; so much so that Chinese investments and presence are to be seen virtually in every single crucial area of importance.

    But Modi is trying to reverse this trend. Or else how does one explain Modi’s unexpected decision of announcing a line of credit of $2 billion to Bangladesh, the largest-ever Indian loan to any country?

    Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina also flagged off two bus services connecting many Indian and Bangladeshi cities and discussed many new bus and rail services, which may start soon.

    Bangladesh has given land transit rights to India far more liberally than ever before. More bus and rail links are being explored. The two sides were connected by rail till 1965 when Bangladesh was still a part of Pakistan and known as East Pakistan. The rail links are still there though in baby shape because of non-use for last half a century.

    The two sides are engaged in serious efforts to restore rail links. Going by the political will from highest quarters on both sides it is only a matter of time that a greater integration of peoples and economies takes place.

    Another highly commendable initiative is in the works, which is a potential game changer in the bilateral context of India and Bangladesh. This pertains to waterways.

    Considering the fact that 1,000-kilometer of the 4096-km-long India-Bangladesh boundary is riverine, the scope of cooperation between the two sides is immense and, ironically, only the sky is the limit for linkages in bilateral waters.

    The implication of this is plain and simple in strategic terms. India is trying to catch up with China in the Bangladeshi strategic space.

    China has invested hugely in Bangladesh and given goose bumps to India just as Chinese maneuvres had done of late in India’s neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and even Maldives.

    That’s why India came with an exclusive and first-ever statement on South China Sea during top-level engagement with the Obama administration. That’s why India offered a billion dollar line of credit to Mongolia during Modi’s maiden visit to Mongolia.

    There is one more important foreign policy objective of Modi during his just-concluded Bangladesh. It is to lay the first bricks of the sub-regional architecture called BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) as this writer had written about in these columns recently. India has consciously embarked on the BBIN route during Modi’s Bangladesh visit. A plethora of done deals and many more in the works point to India’s keen desire to prepare a strategic and political architecture at the sub-regional level to keep China and Pakistan at bay.

    Bangladesh has responded positively to this Indian initiative during PM Modi's Bangladesh visit. It remains to be seen if the other B and N of BBIN — Bhutan and Nepal — follow suit. Watch this space.
     
  8. Abhijat

    Abhijat Regular Member

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    @r2d2 ka baap , thanks for such informative articles.

    Good job :clap2:
     
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  9. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    Open border deal among India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal
    Posted on: 11:04 PM IST Jun 15, 2015
    PRESS TRUST OF INDIA


    Thimpu:
    India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal on Monday signed a far-reaching agreement that will enhance regional connectivity by facilitating seamless movement of people, goods and vehicles among the four nations, with the first phase set to begin in October.

    The transport ministers of the four countries inked the Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN MVA).

    [​IMG]
    India was represented at the meeting by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.

    India was represented at the meeting by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.

    "This (BBIN MVA) would enable the exchange of traffic rights and ease cross-border movement of goods, vehicles, and people, thereby helping expand people-to-people contact, trade, and economic exchanges between our countries," a joint ministerial statement later said.

    According to the statement, all the four countries will endeavour to carry out a six-month work-plan from July to December 2015 for the implementation of BBIN MVA. The staged implementation of the project is slated from October 2015.

    During the meeting, Gadkari, who also hold charge of the shipping ministry, said: "We understand our advantage of linking with all our neighbours. Simultaneously, we recognise our additional responsibility to accommodate our neighbours’ concerns."

    "We are and will remain flexible enough to address various challenges faced by our neighbouring countries and are always ready to support their initiatives to bridge various deficits."

    Under the work-plan for project implementation, the formalisation of the BBIN MVA is expected to be completed by August. The installation of project pre-requisites like IT, infrastructure, tracking and regulatory systems are scheduled by December 2015.

    The joint statement called BBIN MVA a complementary instrument to existing transport agreements at the bilateral levels between the four countries. This, it said, will continue to be honoured by the contracting parties.

    The statement further said that the protocol is also a result of strong determination expressed by the leaders of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at their 18th summit in Kathmandu in November last year to deepen regional integration.

    The leaders also noted with concern the poor merchandise trade under the free trade pact, which amounted to a mere $3 billion since July 2006.

    "We further recall their renewed commitment to substantially enhance regional connectivity in a seamless manner through building and upgrading roads, railways, waterways infrastructure, energy grids, communications and air links,” the joint statement added.

    The joint statement's reference to the SAARC MVA assumes significance as the stalled agreement prompted the 18th summit to encourage member states to initiate regional and sub-regional steps to enhance connectivity. The BBIN MVA is the culmination of that development.

    Gadkari announced in the meeting that a major breakthrough has also been achieved between India-Myanmar and Thailand and that the three nations have agreed to develop a similar framework agreement on the lines of the draft SAARC MVA.

    "Secretary-level discussions were successfully concluded in Bengaluru this month and consensus has been reached on the text of agreement," the minister said.

    "On conclusion of this agreement, our sub-region will get access to the larger ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) market through seamless passenger and cargo movement."
     
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  10. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    BBIN motor vehicle agreement signed
    June 16, 2015
    Sheikh Shahariar Zaman, Shohel Mamun


    [​IMG]

    Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal have signed the Motor vehicle Agreement, an epoch making initiative, for free movement of goods and passengers among the four countries.

    “The agreement [MVA] has been signed,” Bangladesh’s Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary MAN Siddique told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

    This is a framework agreement and all countries (BBIN) hope to conclude related formalities by December, he said.

    The transport ministers of the four countries – Bangladesh’s Obaidul Quader, Bhutan’s Lyonpo DN Dhungyel, India’s Nitin Jairam Gadkhari and Nepal’s Bimalendra Nidhi – signed the agreement on behalf of their sides at the Le Meridien Hotel in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu yesterday.

    This comes a day after the secretaries of the transport ministries of these four countries finalised the agreement and fixed the time-line for the October trial run at the same venue.

    Under the agreement, the contracting parties will allow trucks and trailers with containers, passenger vehicles, hired or personal, to ply in the territory of other contracting parties.

    In other words, under the deal, a tourist from Bangladesh can go to Bhutan or Nepal through India in his or her own car and a patient can travel from Khulna to Kolkata in a rented ambulance.

    While addressing yesterday’s ministerial meeting at Thimphu: “We have fixed a six-month work plan – from July to December – to implement the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement. The transport ministers also agreed to form committees of their own to monitor the plan.”

    The agreement, which takes most of its text from the Saarc Motor Vehicle Agreement, will increase connectivity among the countries to boost trade and people-to-people contact. The Saarc agreement could not be signed during the last regional summit held in Kathmandu in November last year due to opposition from Pakistan.

    India took the initiative to sign a parallel motor vehicle agreement comprising the four nations after failing to secure a deal in Kathmandu. Last December, India asked the other three countries to attend a meeting in Kolkata in February to discuss motor vehicle movement.

    Bangladesh’s cabinet endorsed the BBIN MVA last week. All the other three countries have also given similar endorsements, paving the way for the signing of the agreement yesterday.

    A joint statement issued by the transport ministers said that the relevant bilateral and multilateral agreements and protocols would be prepared by July and the MVA would be formalised by August.

    The countries acknowledged the technical and facilitating role played by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in taking the motor vehicle agreement initiative this far.

    The statement noted that the ADB-supported South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation programme has been enhancing connectivity among the four signatories.

    “We take note that 30 priority transport connectivity projects with an estimated total cost of over $8bn have been identified, which will rehabilitate and upgrade remaining sections of trade and transport corridors in our four countries,” the statement reads.

    “We [also] take note of the finding that transforming transport corridors into economic corridors could potentially increase intraregional trade within South Asia by almost 60% and with the rest of the world by over 30%.”

    The agreement

    The contracting parties now have to negotiate bilaterally or tri-laterally to settle the standard of procedures and modalities of movement of vehicles.

    The parameters of the negotiation will be the types of vehicles to be allowed to cross borders, permits and documents required for vehicles, transit fees and charges, road signs and signals, insurance, business facilitation, applicability of local laws, dispute settlement, passport and visa, rights to inspect and search, and so on.

    The four forms of the agreement are related to one year permits for regular passenger transportation, regular cargo transportation and personal vehicles and one-month permits for non-regular vehicle transportation like ambulances.

    Future negotiations

    The parties need to negotiate to settle a series of issues related to cargo and passenger movement which include fixing customs procedures, volume of cargoes and passengers, transit fees, routes, insurance, and so on.

    The agreement stipulates that a joint customs sub-group will be set up to formulate required customs and other procedures with regard to entry and exit of vehicles.

    The contracting parties will decide on the number of cargo and personal vehicles and volume of traffic through consultation. All fees and charges for issue of permit for the vehicle for one party will be levied only at the entry point of another contracting party.

    There will be no exemption of local taxes and the vehicle in movement will have to pay local taxes. The governments will fix routes, additions or changes by mutual consent and deviation from the routes by any vehicles will be treated as violation of the issued permits.

    The agreement stipulates that the regular passenger and cargo vehicle must have a comprehensive insurance policy but Bangladesh does not recognise policies made in India, Nepal or Bhutan.

    “Local insurance companies now have to have an arrangement with their regional counterparts so that their policies are honoured abroad,” said a foreign ministry official.
     
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  11. r2d2 ka baap

    r2d2 ka baap New Member

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    A Boost to Sub-Regionalism in South Asia
    A landmark agreement is expected to pave the way for regional integration.

    By Sridhar Ramaswamy
    June 21, 2015


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    Image Credit: Narendra Modi

    At the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu, held in late November 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that regional integration in South Asia would go ahead “through SAARC or outside it, among all of us or some of us.” On June 15, 2015, the transport ministers of four South Asian neighbors – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, now better known as the BBIN – signed a landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) in Thimpu. The agreement is expected to pave the way for a seamless movement of goods and people across their borders, encouraging regional integration and economic development.

    Indian Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari commented, “This indeed is a momentous achievement for all the four neighbours. This historic agreement will further promote our cooperation in trade and commerce.” He added, “The Motor Vehicles Agreement is the ‘overarching’ framework to fulfill our commitment to enhance regional connectivity. The agreement will help in creating transport corridors linking the four countries into economic corridors as well as enable transit of passengers and goods along designated key routes in the four SAARC countries, thereby reducing the time-consuming exercise of disembarking of passengers.”

    The agreement will be phased in over six months. The first phase will include the preparation of bilateral (and perhaps trilateral or quadrilateral) agreements and protocols for implementation of the MVA, to be completed by July 2015. The second phase will entail negotiation and approval of additional agreements and protocols, by September 2015. This will be followed by installation of the IT systems, infrastructure, tracking, regulatory systems and other tools for implementing the approved agreements, by December 2015, and then by gradual roll out from October 2015.

    The joint statement claimed that transforming transport corridors into economic corridors could potentially boost intra-regional trade within South Asia by almost 60 percent, and with the rest of the world by more than 30 percent. The Asian Development Bank, with its support for the South Asian Subregional Economic Cooperation, has been helping to enhance interconnectivity between the four countries. The joint statement expressed pleasure with the progress of work to improve the physical road connectivity between the countries.

    A BBIN Friendship Motor Rally is planned to be held in October 2015 to highlight the sub-regional connectivity and the scope and opportunities for greater people-to-people contact and trade under the BBIN initiative. In the meantime, there are some detailed negotiations that must be completed before the agreement is fully in place. Among other things, a series of issues related to cargo and passenger movement need to be settled, such as deciding on customs procedures, cargo and passenger volumes, transit fees, routes, and insurance. A joint customs sub-group will be formed to work out the required customs and other procedures with regard to vehicle entry and exit. Not all customs stations will be geared to entry of containers from neighboring countries; the traffic will be required to move through designated routes along the BBIN corridor. Failing to take the authorized routes will be treated as a violation of the permit conditions and relevant customs laws.

    Despite the challenges that must be overcome before the BBIN MVA agreement is successfully implemented, it is nonetheless a positive development for the sub-regional grouping. It represents both progress and India’s willingness to lead. The MVA will help reduce transport costs and it will foster the development of transit facilities and multimodal transport that will in turn promote greater trade and improve connectivity between the BBIN countries.

    Sub-regional cooperation in South Asia will lend impetus to India’s international trade and will also strengthen South Asia’s position as a regional trade hub. India stands to gain significantly in terms of trade, investment, assistance, and cooperation within the region, as well as in people-to-people contact and connectivity. The BBIN initiatives clearly reflect India’s ambitions for South Asian economic integration.

    India should now seek also to coordinate with other sub-regional groupings beyond South Asia. Commenting on the initiative to strengthen connectivity with ASEAN, Gadkari said, “In this regard a major breakthrough has been achieved between India, Myanmar and Thailand. The three nations have agreed to develop a similar framework motor vehicle agreement on the lines of the draft SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement. Secretary-level discussions were successfully concluded in Bengaluru this month and consensus has been reached on the text of the Agreement. On conclusion of this agreement, our sub-region will get access to the larger ASEAN market through seamless passenger and cargo movement.”
     

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