India today implemented the regional free trade agreement – Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement – by flagging-off the first cargo truck from the city, this morning.

The cargo vehicle will travel a distance of 640 km (apprx), according to Vijay Chhibber, Union Road Transport and Highways Secretary, from Kolkata (West Bengal) to Dhaka (Bangladesh) and finally to Agartala (Tripura).

“In case of the traditional route, vehicles travelled 1550 km. So one can very well imagine the time and cost savings that will happen with the BBIN agreement in place,” he told reporters post the flag-off from the State secretariat (Nabanna).

His State counterpart, Alapan Bandopadhyay was also present on the occasion.

Easy Movement

The BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement, signed on June 15, 2015, allows vehicles to enter each other's territory and does away with trans-shipment of goods from one country's truck to another at the border, a time consuming and costly process.

According to Chhibber, the pilot run would help the SAARC nations finalise the protocols that are to be followed and also bring to light the hurdles that the road connectivity project can face.

“The protocol will be signed shortly,” he said.

Report within a week

The Indian government has chosen global logistics company DHL Global Forwarding to carry out the pilot run.

As of now the cargo vehicle is tracked electronically and permits have been issued online and sent electronically across to all land ports. It also contains an electronic seal that alerts regulators every time the container door is opened.

DHL Global Forwarding, according to Samar Nath, its CEO, will be submitting a report to the Centre within a week’s time. The company, will also be taking up the pilot run for the next phase of the project – that includes connectivity to Bhutan – soon.

“We are also going to take up the pilot run for cargo movement to Bhutan soon. We are in discussions about the same,” he said.

India-Myanmar-Thailand highway

Meanwhile, Chhibber added that trial runs for making operational the India-Myanmar-Thailand (I-M-T) trilateral highway are to begin around December this year. The highway connects a near 3,000-km stretch from Moreh (Uttar Pradesh) to Thailand. The protocols, between nations, are yet to be signed.

“There are some delays in signing the protocols with elections scheduled in Myanmar. Hopefully, formalities will be completed around March-April 2016; and, by early December this year trial runs will begin hopefully from December,” he said.

The Centre, Chhibber said, will also look to initiate trial runs for the Kolkata-Khulna (in Bangladesh) bus service from December 2.