Discussions on the much-talked about sub-regional connectivity initiative -- BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) -- are going to resume after around two years.
A Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) MVA would be held on January 30-31 in New Delhi.
The meeting’s purpose is to finalise the BBIN MVA Protocols, namely the Passenger Vehicle Protocol and the Cargo Vehicles Protocol, Sarwar Mahmood, director general (South Asia) of the foreign ministry, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He would lead a Bangladesh delegation at the meeting.
The foreign ministry has also called an inter-ministerial meeting today at its Annex Building Conference Room to formulate the position of Bangladesh in preparation for the JWG meeting.
Representatives of ministries and agencies concerned, including the road transport and bridges ministry, home ministry, commerce ministry, Economic Relations Division, National Board of Revenue, Bangladesh Land Port Authority, and Roads and Highways Department, have been asked to join the meeting.
Asked whether officials from Bhutan, which pulled out from the initiative, would join the meeting, Sarwar said, “Details about the JWG meeting would be known after tomorrow’s [Wednesday] internal meeting.”
The development comes after a trial run of a tri-nation (Bangladesh, India, and Nepal) bus service in April 2018.
Nepal, which was reluctant to the three-nation approach, seems to have changed its stance and now shows its interest in the initiative, said a Bangladeshi official involved in the initiative.
On June 15, 2015, aiming to make a route for seamless flow of passenger and cargo traffic in the region, the MVA was signed at the BBIN transport ministers meeting in Bhutan.
The initiative got a setback in November 2016 when Bhutan stepped out of the BBIN process amid severe domestic opposition to the agreement, primarily on fears of vehicular pollution and environmental degradation.
Bhutan, however, asked the other stakeholders to go ahead with the plan and expressed hope to join it after clearance from its parliament.
Against the backdrop, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal in April 2018 went for a trial run of a tri-nation bus service to scrutinise in detail all aspects of the journey. Officials of the three countries took part in the bus trip.
The 1,100km route was Dhaka-Rangpur-Banglabandha-Siliguri (India)-Kakarvitta (Nepal)-Bharatpur-Kathmandu, said officials.
Currently, Bangladesh has a bus route with India only.
The officials were supposed to submit a report with necessary recommendations and based on the report, a protocol will be inked before a regular bus service starts, officials said at the inauguration of the trial run in Dhaka.
But Nepal reportedly backtracked on the initiative at that time.
Before signing of the protocol, the three countries have to ink a “memorandum of understanding” to go ahead with the tri-nation approach, said the Bangladeshi official.
Bangladesh approved the draft of “memorandum of understanding” prepared by India, but Nepal did not agree with it, the official told this newspaper.
No meeting was held after the trial run, he said, adding, “I have heard that Nepalese officials will attend the JWG meeting and their stance would be clear at the meeting.”
In October last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli on the sidelines of the 18th NAM Summit in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Asked about the BBIN issue after the meeting, then foreign secretary Shahidul Haque said Bhutan had a problem in implementing the initiative, but Nepal agreed to execute it.
In this connection, Hasina said, “We’ve raised the issue before India, and Nepal could also raise it before New Delhi and we could operationalise the BBIN through it.”