New Delhi: – India, Bangladesh and Nepal have decided to expedite the development of road, rail and waterways network between the three countries, for free passenger and freight movement, under the Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA). A meeting of Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) was held on Sunday. BBIN had signed a ‘free movement of passengers and freight’ agreement in 2015. But the deal was not implemented till date. However, the consent letter for implementation of this agreement was signed in the Sunday meeting. The decision was taken to expedite the implementation of MVA. Being a regional connectivity agreement, it becomes essential as it provides further strength to the Indian policies regarding the Indo-Pacific region.
The MVA agreement was signed to ensure free movement of passengers and freight through the BBIN countries. In 2017, Bhutan declared withdrawal from the deal because of a political complication which developed in Bhutan. But India, Bangladesh and Nepal are firm on the implementation of this project. But not a single meeting was held in the matter after January 2018. The BBIN meeting was finally held after a gap of two years in New Delhi. Bhutan attended the meeting as a supervisor.
The agreement will be taken forward, leaving Bhutan out of it. The doors are still open for Bhutan to join the project. But the implementation of the MVA will be started.
Nepal and Bhutan, the signatories to the agreement, are majorly dependent on India. Because of the geographical position, they do not have an alternative, but to use the Indian route for transport. If free passenger and freight movement is started between India, Nepal and Bangladesh, the trade between the countries will increase and the cost of transportation will also reduce. There was discussion during the meeting regarding reducing the taxation of the transporters.
India is giving stress on regional connectivity since the last few years. India is making efforts to increase road, rail, waterways and air connectivity with its neighbours. Similar efforts are being made in Afghanistan and Thailand too. India is trying to connect southeast Asian countries through Thailand. These agreements add strength to the Indian Act East and Indo-Pacific policies. Therefore, the decision to implement the MVA during the BBIN meeting becomes significant.