India to ink four-nation Motor Vehicle Agreement

Even as Pakistan continues to play spoilsport in South Asian nations’ pursuit for regional connectivity, India is now set to ink an agreement with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal to ease movement of passenger, personal and cargo vehicles amongst the four countries.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the draft of the agreement, which is likely to be signed during a meeting of the transport ministers of the four countries in Thimphu. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari will represent India in the meeting in the Bhutanese capital on June 14 and 15.

The BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) Motor Vehicle Agreement is being signed eight months after Pakistan’s resistance stopped members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) from clinching a similar deal during its 18th summit of the eight-nation bloc in Kathmandu last November.

“The 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,” the government stated in an official press release issued after the meeting of the Union Cabinet.

Each of the four countries will bear its own costs arising from implementation of the proposed agreement.

The agreement among India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal will allow passenger, personal and cargo vehicles to travel along designated key routes in the four countries without the need for trans-shipment of goods and passengers at the border crossings.

New Delhi, according to the sources, has been keen to ink the quadrilateral deal with Dhaka, Thimphu and Kathmandu, as it would help to convey to Islamabad that Pakistan must take note of South Asia’s aspiration for regional connectivity and realise that it would be left out of the process if it continued to play spoilsport.

If signed by all the eight countries, the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement for Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic would have made it possible for vehicles registered in one country to move into another member country of the bloc without much hassle. The SAARC was also close to sign a Regional Railways Agreement for rail connectivity within South Asia.

The deals however could not be inked during the summit in Kathmandu as Pakistan Prime Minister M Nawaz Sharif told his counterparts from other South Asian nations that his government had not yet completed internal processes required to ink and implement such an agreement.

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