BBIN MOTOR VEHICLE AGREEMENT SIGNED
Sheikh Shahariar Zaman, Shohel Mamun
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 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.
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.
JUNE 16, 2015