PMs of India and Bangladesh to bat for effective regional connectivity

Economic Times, August 13, 2019

NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi’s trip to Bhutan on August 17-18 and Bangladesh PM’s trip to Delhi early October could smoothen hurdles over BBIN regional connectivity including Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA).

Regional connectivity initiatives will figure high on the agenda of these visits for effective sub-regional cooperation that feeds into Indo-Pacific construct.

“While the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement can yield long term benefits but for its effective implementation many short-term challenges are to be addressed to arrive at a mutual win-win situation for all the stakeholders and countries involved,” said Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, a leading Indian think tank that focuses on connectivity and trade facilitation issues.

Chatterjee mentioned that while the framework agreement for the BBIN MVA has been signed in June, 2015 but the same is yet to be implemented owing to a number of challenges pertaining to infrastructure deficits, differences in regulations and trust deficit among the signatory countries. Coupled with these, cumbersome paperwork involved in doing border clearance is causing traffic congestion at border posts.

In this regard, there is the need to set up more Inland Container Depots and strengthen digital connectivity within and across countries in the BBIN region to facilitate off-border clearance so as to reduce the time and cost of doing cross-border trade.

Robert Garverick, Minister Counsellor for Economic Affairs & Environment, Science & Technology, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi pointed out that the United States is setting up a new development finance institution to fund projects to propel development of energy, infrastructure and digital connectivity in the Indo Pacific region. He also emphasised that the private sector would need to play an important role to sustain the growth and connectivity in the region.

Participants at the workshop also pointed out thatdigital connectivity should be effectively used to develop an online trade facilitation platform and appropriate risk management system to facilitate faster cargo clearance at the border. The need for facilitating multi-modal connectivity among the BBIN countries coupled with regulatory synchronisation for doing the same was also emphasised.

The deliberations figured at CUTS International-US Embassy stakeholder consultation here on what needs to be done to facilitate effective implementation of the BBIN MVA.

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