BBIN roads deal shows the way ahead

The new motor vehicle agreement due to be signed by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal on June 15 in Thimphu, is a breakthrough in developing regional connectivity.

It will help improve regional connections in a way that bypasses the obstacles poor India-Pakistan relations have wrought on reaching a SAARC-wide agreement.

When implemented, it will enable Bangladeshis to more easily travel directly to India, Nepal and  Bhutan in their own private car or by bus.

At present, Bangladesh and India have a bilateral arrangement on passenger movement but with the new agreement in effect, Bangladeshi trucks and private cars can go on to Nepal or Bhutan via India.

With Bhutan and Nepal only around 100km from our border, the initiative potentially offers a huge boost to growing tourism and trade.

The transport minister is right to hail this proposed treaty as paving “the way for a European Union-like road communication system among the four countries.’’

Of course, to truly allow people to enjoy seamless transit of passenger, cargo, and personal vehicles between our four nations, all the governments involved need to commit to investing in better, safer and speedier highways.

Bangladesh’s relatively small land area, flat landscape and geographical location between South and South-East Asia gives it a natural advantage and incentive to build better highways.

The government should build on the vision shown by the BBIN agreement. It should prioritise  improving our road infrastructure to shorten journey times between major population centres in order to  draw more trade towards our ports and attract new investment.

Better roads are imperative to maximise our economic potential and to make the most of the new BBIN  roads treaty.