South Asian neighbours Bangladesh, India, and Nepal have finalised a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for implementing the long-awaited Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA).
The BBIN connectivity project is aimed at boosting regional trade and connectivity, reports the Hindustan Times.
This initiative was conceived after the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) failed to agree on a regional motor vehicles agreement during a summit in Nepal in 2014.
The BBIN project suffered a setback in 2017 when Bhutan temporarily opted out of it after being unable to get parliamentary approval for the MVA.
The three other countries decided at the time to press ahead with the agreement.
A meeting among the representatives of the other three countries was held to discuss the next steps in this regard on Tuesday in New Delhi where the enabling MoU was finalised.
Bhutan participated in the meeting as an observer. The MoU was finalised "pending ratification of the MVA by Bhutan", according to the external affairs ministry.
"Recalling the commitments made at the highest level for implementation of the BBIN MVA, the delegations expressed their desire to sign the MoU at the earliest to give momentum to the implementation," the ministry said in a statement.
The countries emphasised the importance of speedily operationalising the MVA to "enable seamless movement between them for facilitating trade and people-to-people contact."
The conclusion of passenger and cargo protocols to operationalise the MVA will also help realise the full potential of trade and people-to-people connectivity between BBIN countries by fostering greater sub-regional cooperation.
The meeting was held primarily to discuss the passenger and cargo protocols that are essential to operationalise the MVA. The delegates agreed on specific steps and timelines to finalise these protocols. The Asian Development Bank provided technical and knowledge support to the meeting.
This was the first meeting of the group since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the last meeting was held in New Delhi in February 2020. The Indian side was led by Smita Pant, joint secretary in the external affairs ministry, and the Bangladesh delegation was led by ATM
Rokebul Haque, director general (South Asia) in the foreign ministry, while the Nepalese delegation was led by Keshab Kumar Sharma, joint secretary in the ministry of physical infrastructure and transport. Bhutan's observer team was led by Thinley Norbu, first secretary in the Bhutanese embassy in New Delhi.
The BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic between the four countries was signed during a transport ministers' meeting in Thimpu on June 15, 2015. Bhutan had earlier given its consent for the entry into force of the MVA among the other 3 countries, without any obligation to itself, pending the completion of internal procedures for ratifying the agreement.