The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIB) block is one of the least integrated sub-regions in the world with an intra-regional trade standing at a mere 4 per cent. The potential is significantly higher than this.
“The BBIN sub-region should develop a cooperative approach for multi-modal connectivity, learning from successful sub-regional connectivity models of the world”, Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, said at a webinar organised by the think tank.
Amid rapidly changing geopolitical contours, it is critical for the four countries to look at ways to implement the Motor Vehicles Agreement under the BBIN framework.
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Chatterjee added that initiatives aimed at boosting connectivity, which includes multi-modal modes will be very crucial in pushing the competitiveness of the sub-region in terms of logistics performance. These initiatives should be looked at along with the larger picture of the sub-region and initiatives such as the BIMSTEC master plan on transport connectivity.
Gopal Krishna, former Shipping Secretary, also present at the webinar said that Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and Inland Waterways Authority of India need to work together to facilitate a well-connected inland water transport system in the BBIN sub-region. Along with serving the commercial interests of Bangladesh and India, it will also help the landlocked partners Bhutan and Nepal to do trade within and outside the sub-region at a much lower cost.
Nepal and Bhutan, the two landlocked countries in the region, are dependent on India and Bangladesh for port access.
At present the non-recognition of transit rights is also leading to problems and delays at the border.
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Meanwhile, India and Bangladesh have already resumed the trans-border rail connectivity between Haldibari in West Bengal – located just 75 km away from the Chicken’s Neck and Chilahati located across the border in Nilphamari district after almost 55 years.