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Intra-regional trade, energy, water cooperation on agenda 

Through its motor vehicles agreement, the countries have set in motion steps to make it possible for both passenger and freight vehicles to cross easily from one country into another.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
Updated: July 15, 2016 1:13:26 am

THE SENIOR advisor on economic affairs to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said West Bengal, which is a “gateway” to North-East India could play a major role in “maximisation of intra-regional trade” between the two countries along with Nepal and Bhutan.

Speaking at the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Business Forum in Kolkata, Dr Mashiur Rahman said: “It is important for member countries to understand the ground realities… it is time to change their mindset towards economic cooperation… For infrastructure development, private sector participation will be indispensable.”

BBIN is a sub-regional initiative taken up by the four countries last year. Through its motor vehicles agreement, the countries have set in motion steps to make it possible for both passenger and freight vehicles to cross easily from one country into another. The member states formulate, implement and review agreements across areas such as water resources management, connectivity of power, transport and infrastructure. The first BBIN summit was held in Bangladesh.

Dr Gawhar Rizvi, senior advisor on foreign affairs to the Hasina government maintained that regional cooperation is only possible if neighbours take energy and water cooperation seriously. “Not only India, the region itself needs to develop and tap in resources from North-East India. The region has huge hydro power potential…”

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“BBIN should not be only restricted to road connectivity but expand its scope to other mode of travels such as air and inland water connectivity,” he added. Pratibha Parkar of the Ministry of External Affairs said cooperation between the four countries would go a long way in improving connectivity.

“Regional transport management will increase and cross border trading system will help reduce various tariff and non-tariff barriers. For focused regional connectivity, BBIN needs to think beyond road connectivity,” said Parkar.
He added that the Indian government was exploring railway links to each BBIN countries.

Matlub Ahmed, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said BBIN agreement aims at promoting safe, economical, efficient and environmentally sound road transport. The initiative also aims at linking the supply chain and production networks in the region. “We have already identified Siliguri for a BBIN economic zone,” he added.

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