Wait for borderless travel set to end

Published - September 17, 2015 02:38 am IST - DHAKA:

Vehicles from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal will be able to cross each other’s borders after the dawn of New Year, ushering in a new era in sub-regional connectivity.

The trial run of vehicles to highlight the much-awaited connectivity will take place in October, official quarters here told The Hindu .

The four countries, known as BBIN by their initials, will also stage a car rally between November 14 and December 1, in order to promote the launch of the landmark cross-border vehicle movement, said Bangladesh Road Transport Minister Mr. Obaidul Quader . The motor procession is scheduled to end in Kolkata, beginning from Bhubaneswar after touching Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

In accordance with the BBIN motor vehicle agreement, signed in June 15 in Thimpu, cargoes as well as passenger-carrying and personal vehicles from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal will be able to travel across each other’s borders.

A combined working group formed with representatives from the four nations met in Dhaka on September 8 and 9, and decided unanimously to allow the cross-border travel of passenger and personal vehicles. According to the agreement, the combined working group are supposed to conclude all formalities by December and passenger-carrying and cargo vehicles are supposed to start operating in January.

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, even tourists from the countries concerned can go to other three countries by private or rented cars.

Challenges remain

Although concerned quarters are stated to be serious about meeting the January 2016 deadline, however, some officials said, a number of problems, including cross-border policy and immigration and customs system, are yet to be resolved.

The agreement, which takes most of its text from the Saarc Motor Vehicle Agreement, will understandably increase connectivity among the countries to boost trade and people-to-people contact. The proposed SAARCc agreement could not be signed during the last 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.

The proposed routes for passenger transportation would be Kolkata (India)-Petrapole/Benapole-Jessore-Dhaka-Chittagong, Chittagong-Dhaka-Hatikumrul-Bogra-Rangpur-Burimari/Chengrabandha (India)-Shiliguri (India), Dhaka-Hatikumrul-Bogra-Rangpur-Burimari/Chengrabandha (India)-Jaigaon (India)/Phuentsholing (Bhutan)-Thimphu (Bhutan), Dhaka-Hatikumrul-Bogra-Rangpur-Banglabandha/Phulbari (India)-Panitanki (India)/Kakarvita (Nepal)-Kathmundu (Nepal), Kolkata-Dhaka-Sarail-Sylhet-Tamabil/Dawki (India)-Shilong-Guwahati (India)-Samdrup Jhonkar (Bhutan) and Khulna-Jessore-Benapole/Petrapole (india)-Kolkata (India).

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