Editorial, Port Wings, June 17, 2015:
India, which is regarded as the super power in the SAARC Region, has taken the right step towards creating a road corridor that would be beneficial to the whole ASEAN Region.
The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic amongst BBIN, approved by the Union Cabinet few days ago, could be a real game-changer for the region as well as the mammoth country like India, if it is implemented in letter and spirit.
The agreement, conceived and formulated by India after intense series of consultation with other stakeholders from Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, also pops up an important indication of India's readiness to play a more determined leadership role in the SAARC Region.
It’s a well known fact that South Asia with globally valuable markets is one of the least linked of the world, as far as the road connectivity is concerned.
The European Union, comprising of over two dozen countries, has good road connectivity and the link has helped those countries to grow without spending much on transportation.
On the same line, if the proposed agreement is implemented, it will help an exporter from a remote village in Kerala to reach his potential buyers sitting near Chittagong in Bangladesh or at Thimphu in Bhutan, without relying on the costly mode of transports like the air.
Besides, it will also help India to pitch for a greater role in ASEAN region with the road link could be extended upto Vietnam and Cambodia in future.
To secure its interests, China has been pushing its Silk Road projects, land and maritime, calling these 'One Belt, One Road', backed with $200-plus billion in investments (including China-Pakistan Economic Corridor).
Since ancient times, Asia had been connected in a variety of ways by land and sea. Like China, India too is seeking to strengthen connectivity to the East and West. India and China are also working together on Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor.
Improving road connectivity among these nations is crucial to developing its full potential, especially in the economic sector.
Currently, whatever little trade happens in this sector is total India centric. For instance, Bangladesh imports much from India and has a strong garment export arrangement with the developed economies in West, but shares no significant trade ties with Bhutan or Nepal.
Another important aspect of the BBIN motor vehicle pact in particular, and increased sub-regional trade in general, is the boost that small and medium enterprises will receive.
Apart from economic prosperity, the road link, if extended upto Vietnam or Cambodia, will open a new option for travelers to understand the culture and history of the ASEAN countries from close quarters.
Let’s hope for the best.