4-nation road connectivity faces setback
The introduction of seamless movements of passenger and cargo vehicles under a four-nation road connectivity deal may get delayed due to the ongoing "border" crisis between Nepal and India.
A motor rally, which was organised to assess road connectivity in the countries before finalising the agreement in January next year, has already excluded Nepal. The setback may delay signing of the final deal.
Representatives of the countries expressed their apprehension over opening of roads under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement, which was signed in June.
At least 30 transport corridors have been identified, which will be transformed into economic corridors.
Although the motor rally was supposed to tour around all four countries, Nepal was excluded on the ground of "border insecurity", said an Indian official addressing a seminar on “Enhancing Regional Connectivity: Status of Infrastructure in Bangladesh,” held in Dhaka yesterday.
Dashrath Risal, team leader and president of the Nepal Automobile Sports Association, however, called it unfortunate.
“Mutual understanding and communication gaps between Nepal and India are lingering the ongoing tension which prevents the rally to enter the border,” he told The Daily Star.
The border of Birgunj town, 90km south of Kathmandu, has remained blocked since September 25 by Nepal's Madhesi community cutting off vital supplies to the landlocked Himalayan nation as anger deepened over the country's new constitution.
But Praveen Chandra Bhanj Deo, a legislative assembly member of Odisha, who is also leading the Indian team, called it a "shallow" matter.
“It has to be solved for the betterment of BBIN,” he said.
Asked whether the cross-border vehicular operation could start next January, Praveen Chandra said it depended on each country's finalisation of the protocol in the respective parliament.
Speaking as chief guest, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, however, hoped that it would happen by January.
“There can be some gaps, but let's build greater connectivity by removing those challenges,” he added.
The motor rally started from Bhubaneswar of India's Odisha state on November 14 and reached Dhaka on Sunday evening. With 20 cars, 80 representatives from the four nations travelled 3,500km through Gangtok, Thimphu, Mongar, Guwahti, Silchar and Bilonia.
The rally will depart for Kolkata this morning. It was supposed to conclude its journey in Nepal but Kolkata will be its last destination.
Mohammed Parvez Imdad, principal economist and officer-in-charge of Asian Development Bank's Bangladesh mission, said the road connectivity would reduce transportation costs and facilitate the development of multimodal transports and transit facilities.