Make annual BBIN summits a norm, create a common market for food and services

Amb Sarvajit Chakravarti

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Increasing intra-BBIN (Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal) linkages is essential to enhancing prosperity, particularly in economic activity investment, trade, transportation, tourism, pilgrimage, healthcare, education, supply-chain creation and ease of financial services. Each country has its own advantages which they should be helped to optimise so that the result benefits the entire region and especially eastern and north-east India, which provide the geographical contiguity and connectivity between themselves.

While the BBIN-MVA (motor-vehicles agreement) remains a draft over Bhutan\'s objection to allowing unfettered entry of heavy and petroleum-powered vehicles, other areas of cooperation need to be identified and the level of coordination raised from the Joint Secretary in MEA to at least Ministerial. Periodic Summit level meetings should also be easy to organise, for example, during Bangladesh PM\'s forthcoming visit to New Delhi. In fact, annual Summits are highly useful exercises.

Intra-BBIN trade is languishing far below its potential, although all three partner countries enjoy LDC (less developed country)- based access to the Indian market, and their national currencies may now be mutually acceptable to one another.

Increasing trade and supply chain linkages with India, and providing the logistics and transportation support for regional and international trade will strengthen all four countries. Similarly, imports can be coordinated and synergised to obtain the best prices for larger quantities of essentials such as crude oil and food products.

The entire BBIN region should be treated by India as a single food market so that periodic Indian export bans are not applied to BBIN. Similar approaches may be taken to coordinate trade in other products to lead eventually to a single integrated market.

Growth of the knowledge industry and free movement of professionals needs to be promoted, supported and practised by India, if we are to pursue this right in the wider world. Educational systems may be upgraded to mutually acceptable levels, so that qualifications acquired in one country may be seamlessly considered valid in others. The intermingling of students and professionals will improve mutual knowledge, acceptance and cultural understanding.

Ease of business, investment and financial services may be achieved by coordination and discussion between our central banks so that basic and manufacturing industries can have a wider field to develop and generate employment in and the movement of skilled labour will avoid shortages.

Coordination of environment management will enable greater climate change mitigation and the use and sharing of natural resources, including the optimisation of renewable power generation for the benefit of all. Bangladesh and India can share with others the opportunity of participating in and benefiting from the Blue Economy.

Cultural exchange and tourism growth will reduce the risk of misunderstanding and radicalisation, augmenting the efforts of immigration and police agencies to prevent criminality by sharing information, databases and best practices.

Overall, a common impetus for BBIN coordination and activities will lead to better understanding and mutual prosperity for them all. Thereafter it will become easier to optimise the potential of larger regional communities such as BIMSTEC

 

* Sarvajit Chakravarti, is a retired Indian diplomat.

** Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash 

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