The signing on Monday at the Bhutanese capital Thimphu contrasts the SAARC’s collective failure to ink such a deal in last year’s Nov summit, blamed mainly on Pakistan’s reservations.
Transport ministers of the four countries signed the agreement, Chargé d'affaires of Bangladesh embassy in Bhutan Md Anisur Rahman told bdnews24.com.
With the signing of the agreement, sub-regional connectivity will receive a boost.
The agreement has three components—movements of individual vehicle, passenger vehicles and cargo.
It is expected that after the signing Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will flag off a vehicle that will run on the Thimphu- Bhutan-Gowahati-Shillong-Sylhet-Benapole-Kolkata route.
Bangladesh’s Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader before leaving for Bhutan said it would take few months to prepare the protocols before the pact could be implemented.
He hoped it would begin early next year on a limited scale.
“This would open a new avenue of economic prosperity,” Dhaka-based think-tank CPD’s Executive Director Mustafizur Rahman told bdnews24.com.
Bangladesh’s trade with India, Bhutan and Nepal was growing, though according to the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it was still in favour of those countries.
According to the deal titled ‘Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal, and Cargo Vehicular Traffic with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN)’, valid documents would be needed for vehicles to cross over to another country.
They would not be allowed to take passengers or load goods midway in any country.
Bangladesh’s Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan last week, after the Cabinet approval of the draft had said, destination country would determine the fees and road charges for the movement of vehicles and those would be collected at its entry points.
He said if a vehicle travels from Nepal to Bangladesh through India, fees would have to be paid to both India and Bangladesh.
Vehicles operators would be able to open branch offices and appoint agents in any of the countries. Act of a country will get priority in cases, which are not mentioned in the agreement.
The agreement will be reviewed in every three years or earlier on consensus, and any country can pull out of it giving a six months’ notice.
Though other SAARC countries are not included in the agreement, there is a provision for inclusion of a new country on consensus.