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Saarc countries negotiating on railways, vehicles

Staff writer |
Saarc countries are negotiating regional agreements on railways and motor vehicles with a view to improving connectivity in the region.

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Bangladesh has sent three senior officials to New Delhi to attend the fifth Saarc Intergovernmental Group on Transport where they discussed transport corridor and how to implement the recommendations of Saarc Regional Multimodal Transport Study, said sources in the foreign and communications ministries.

“New Delhi is very much interested in connectivity. It hosted an expert group this month where they discussed an agreement on motor vehicles,” said an official of the Foreign Ministry.

There were other expert group meetings where they also negotiated an agreement on railways, he said.

In the motor vehicle agreement, it is proposed how private cars, commercially-run buses, ambulances and commercial cargoes can move across the region.

The draft text stipulates, “Drivers must have special driving licences, cars must have certain fitness level and there must be a regional insurance coverage for any accident.”

“These are all part of the agreement. Respective taxation offices of the countries will deal with the customs issue only,” the official said.

An official of the Communications Ministry said Saarc has already developed a multimodal transport study. “It is still under negotiation to have a comprehensive policy on multimodal transport,” he said.

The Asian Development Bank carried out a study on Saarc Regional Multimodal Transport where it identified five areas of cooperation such as road, rail, aviation, maritime and transport facilitation.

“Not everything is applicable to all the countries. There can be customised arrangement under Saarc framework,” the official said. Citing an example, he said maritime cooperation is not applicable to Nepal, Bhutan or Afghanistan which are landlocked countries. “Similarly, road connectivity is not applicable to the Maldives or Sri Lanka, the island countries,” he added.

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