Connectivity is the nerve of any economy. It is seminal for the smooth and effective functioning of an economy. India being part of South Asian network has explored multiple opportunities through its neighbours for multimodal connectivity that can aide trade and transit. BBIN is one such viable initiative.
- 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.
- The sub-grouping, BBIN as it is referred to, was an alternative mooted by the government after Pakistan rejected the MVA at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014.
- It seeks to allow trucks and other commercial vehicles to ply on one another’s highways to facilitate trade. Of the other SAARC members, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are not connected by land, and Afghanistan could only be connected if Pakistan was on board.
- Accordingly, it was considered appropriate that a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) may be pursued.
- 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.
Bhutan has announced that it would not be able to ratify the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal motor vehicles agreement for the time being and asked the other stakeholders to go ahead with the plan without it.
- To facilitate the early implementation of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA), the Bhutan government has decided to give its consent for the entry into force of the agreement among the three member states without any obligation to it, the statement said.
- Bhutan’s announcement that it is unable to proceed with the Motor Vehicles Agreement with Bangladesh, India and Nepal is a road block, and not a dead end, for the regional sub-grouping India had planned for ease of access among the four countries.
- The main concern expressed by Bhutanese citizen groups and politicians is over increased vehicular and air pollution in a country that prides itself on ecological consciousness.
- Despite the setback, New Delhi must persevere with its efforts. To begin with, Bhutan’s objections are environmental, not political, and its government may well change its mind as time goes by.
Advantages of BBIN like framework:
- Dry runs have been conducted along the routes, and officials estimate the road links could end up circumventing circuitous shipping routes by up to 1,000 km.
- Second, Bhutan’s concerns may be assuaged if India considers the inclusion of waterways and riverine channels as a less environmentally damaging substitute.
- Perhaps, Bhutan’s objections may even spur an overhaul of emission standards for trucks currently plying in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
- Above all, the BBIN pact denotes a “can-do” attitude on India’s part, as it shows a willingness to broaden its connectivity canvas with all countries willing to go ahead at present, leaving the door open for those that may opt to join in the future.
- A similar initiative for the Asian Highway project under the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) corridor got a boost this week as the countries moved to upgrade the dialogue to the governmental level.
Connectivity is the new global currency for growth and prosperity as it secures both trade and energy lines for countries en route, and India must make the most of its geographic advantages
Connecting the dots:
- Critically analyse the necessity for India to evolve new connectivity routes for trade and transit in lines of BCIM in South Asia and East Asia.