India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh sign agreement for seamless movement of road traffic

India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh today signed a landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) for the regulation of vehicular traffic involving movement of passenger, personnel and cargo among the four South Asian neighbours.

The agreement, signed in Thimpu, Bhutan's capital, by the sub-group of four SAARC nations, will pave the way for a seamless movement of people and goods across their borders for the benefit and integration of the region and its economic development.

Minister of road transport and highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari signed The BBIN MVA agreement on behalf of India.

 ''This indeed is a momentous achievement for all the four neighbours. This historic agreement will further promote our cooperation in trade and commerce apart from further cementing our age old cultural ties,'' Gadkari said earlier while addressing the BBIN transport ministers conference.

''The Motor Vehicles Agreement is the ''over arching'' frame work to fulfill our commitment to enhance regional connectivity. This will need to be followed through with formulation of the required protocols and procedures in the shortest time possible to realise the ultimate objective of free movement of people and goods in the region. This would further need to be supplemented through building and upgrading roads, railways and waterways infrastructure energy grids, communications and air links to ensure smooth cross border flow of goods, services, capital, technology and people. Taken together, this provides enormous opportunity for integration and development of our region,'' he added.

Mentioning about the initiative to strengthen connectivity of the sub-region to ASEAN, the minister said, ''In this regard a major breakthrough has been achieved between India-Myanmar and Thailand. Three nations have agreed to develop a similar framework motor vehicle agreement on the lines of draft SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement. Secretary level discussions were successfully concluded in Bengaluru this month and consensus has been reached on the text of agreement. On conclusion of this agreement, our sub-region will get access to the larger ASEAN market through seamless passenger and cargo movement.''

In a joint statement released on the occasion, the ministers of the four countries acknowledged, ''The finalization of the BBIN MVA would allow us to move forward, in an accelerated fashion, with implementation of land transport facilitation arrangements among our countries. This, in turn, would enable the exchange of traffic rights and ease cross-border movement of goods, vehicles, and people, thereby helping expand people-to-people contact, trade, and economic exchanges between our countries. We will endeavor to accelerate the preparatory steps for the effective and sustainable implementation of the BBIN MVA, starting with the formulation, negotiation, and finalization of the necessary legal instruments and operating procedures. We recognise that the BBIN MVA is a complementary instrument to the existing transport agreements or arrangements at the bilateral levels that the contracting parties will continue to honor. Implementation difficulties, if any, will be resolved based on provisions of the BBIN MVA.''

Transforming transport corridors into economic corridors could potentially increase intraregional trade within South Asia by almost 60 per cent and with the rest of the world by over 30 per cent, the joint statement read,

''We acknowledge that apart from physical infrastructure, the development of economic corridors within and between our countries requires the implementation of policy and regulatory measures, including the BBIN MVA, which will help address the nonphysical impediments to the seamless movement of goods vehicles and people between our four countries.''

A BBIN Friendship Motor Rally is planned to be held in October 2015 to highlight the sub-regional connectivity and the scope and opportunities for greater people-to-people contact and trade under the BBIN initiative.