The transport ministers of the four countries signed the agreement on Monday at the Bhutanese capital Thimphu and issued a joint statement that highlighted the work plan and their joint commitments.
They came to the agreement in line with the proposed SAARC motor vehicle agreement that the eight-nation grouping failed to ink in last year’s summit at Kathmandu, mainly due to Pakistan’s reservations.
But this sub-regional cooperation that will allow passenger, and personal and cargo vehicles to move within countries has kept a provision that a new country can join with a consensus of the four states.
According to the joint statement that India’s external affairs minister released, a ‘BBIN Friendship Motor Rally’ will be held in October this year.
The ministers on Monday flagged off the route survey for the rally that would “highlight the sub-regional connectivity and the scope and opportunities for greater people-to-people contact and trade under the BBIN initiative”.
As part of its six-month work plan, they agreed to formalise the agreement including its protocols in Annexure 1 and 2 by August.
Preparation of bilateral or trilateral or quadrilateral agreements or protocols for implementation of the BBIN agreement would be completed by July.
Negotiation and approval of the agreements or protocols will be completed by September.
Installation of the prerequisites for implementing the approved agreements such as IT systems, infrastructure, tracking and regulatory systems will be completed by December.
The ministers in the joint statement asked key officials of ministries and agencies in their countries “to mainstream the relevant provisions of the BBIN MVA, and subsequent legal instruments into their operations”.
“We instruct our nodal officials or National Land Transport Facilitation Committees to monitor the work plan, and bring to our immediate attention any issues that may arise in the course of its implementation,” the statement read.
The ministers committed that they would endeavour to accelerate the preparatory steps for the “effective and sustainable” implementation of the MVA, starting from the formulation, negotiation, and finalisation of 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 honour.
“Implementation difficulties, if any, will be resolved based on provisions of the BBIN MVA,” they agreed.
They thanked the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for their technical support in taking the initiative this far, and requested the Manila-based lender to continue its “much needed” support.
The ministers expressed their satisfaction at the progress of improving physical road connectivity among the countries.
They also took note that the ADB-supported South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation programme was helping the enhancement of interconnectivity among them.
“We recognise that our four countries comprise a dynamic sub-region, which requires efficient land transport connectivity between the concentrations of supply and demand, which are widely dispersed”.
They also took note of the 30 priority transport connectivity projects already identified with an estimated total cost of over $8 billion.
Those would “rehabilitate and upgrade remaining sections of trade and transport corridors in our four countries”.
These corridors and associated routes were determined based on analysis of patterns of regional and international trade.
The ministers believe transformation of transport corridors into economic corridors could potentially increase intraregional trade within South Asia by almost 60 percent and with the rest of the world by over 30 percent.
They acknowledged that apart from physical infrastructure, the development of economic corridors within and among the countries requires the implementation of policy and regulatory measures, including the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement.
The agreement will help the countries address the “nonphysical impediments to the seamless movement of goods vehicles and people between our four countries”.