• Motor vehicles pact set to give infra boost to BBIN

    The Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) may invite rush for infrastructure building under the ADB (Asian Development Bank) finance in the participating nations.

    While majority of the finance is expected to reach Bangladesh that will see maximum increase in cargo movement; Nepal, Bhutan and India’s North-East should also witness infrastructure boost.

    The MVA will convert the region into a literally borderless territory for cargo and passenger movement, offering India easy access to its North-East. Bangladesh will gain by way of market access in the underserved north-eastern states.

    Protocol agreement

    In a recent interview to BusinessLine in Delhi, Syed Muazzem Ali, Bangladeshi High Commissioner to India, said he was hopeful that protocol agreement for the MVA would be signed this year after Bhutanese Parliament ratifies the framework deal. The other three nations have ratified the agreement.

    The Lower House of Bhutanese Parliament has already given its approval , underlining the need for some concessions in vehicular movement in terms of its small size and vulnerable geography. “I am hopeful that the protocol will be signed. But infrastructure development is necessary (to give it a head start). The road infrastructure is bad,” Ali said.

    Asian highway projects

    The ADB is already financing two Asian Highway projects in North Bengal connecting the Kakarvitta in Nepal, Phuntsholing in Bhutan and Banglabandha in Bangladesh to pave way for easy transit between the BBIN nations.

    But, major investment is required to improve the road and port infrastructure in Bangladesh that will see the maximum increase in cargo movement as Chittagong port will be accessed by Nepal, Bhutan and India’s North-East.

    Asked about financing options, Ali said: “So far, we are trying to do (get finance) bilaterally (with India). But, eventually, I think Asian Development Bank as well as UNESCAP has interests.”

    Bangladesh, he said, has already completed utilisation of the first Indian line of credit of $1 billion for infrastructure creation and is now utilising the second.

    Indo-Bangla border trade

    Meanwhile, Bangladesh is keen to restore its traditional rail connectivity with India by next year. The two countries are also making steady progress in improving border trade infrastructure. “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s first priority is to restore rail connectivity through six points to West Bengal and the North-East. We hope we will be able to complete this process by the middle of next year,” he added. Apart from Akhaura-Agartala link, the rest were operative till 1965.

    The Akhaura-Agartala rail link will help mitigate the road infrastructure bottleneck and connect the Indian Railway system that is recently extended in the region. In the next step, the rail link will connect Chittagong port, located in close proximity, through Sabroom in South Tripura. This will end the north-eastern states dependence on Kolkata port, located nearly 2’,000 km away.

    For trade facilitation, the two countries have already opened modern integrated checkposts (ICP) at Petrapole and Fulbari borders in West Bengal and Akhura in Tripura. Next on line is an ICP at Dawki in West Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya. Michael Brantley Womens Jersey

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