SAARC ministers to talk India proposals for regional corridor

SAARC transport ministers are to meet in the Sri Lankan capital today to discuss the Asian Development Bank’s proposal for a regional transit agreement and some road and rail projects, prioritised earlier for a greater connectivity in South Asia.
   Officials in Dhaka and SAARC secretariat in Kathmandu said this week South Asian transport ministers would mainly focus on implementation of the recommendations of SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study (SRMTS), two road and railway projects proposed by India and a Sri Lankan proposal for setting up institution to handle transport infrastructure-related projects.
   They said that the last ministerial meeting of the region, held in the Indian capital in August 2007, decided to put some specific projects as well as follow up the recommendations of the ADB-funded project.
   In the last meeting, Dhaka informed that it would take time to go for a regional transit deal.
   ‘In the Colombo meeting, Dhaka will critically observe the situation and take time again for implementation of those proposals,’ said an official.
   The 14th SAARC Summit, held in New Delhi April 3-4, endorsed the outcome of the SRMTS as the blueprint for building the regional multi-modal (road, rail, civil aviation, inland waterways, sea) connectivity across the countries.
   At that meeting, India came up with 16 specific transport projects for developing regional transit corridors of which two road and rail projects, involving Nepal, India and Bangladesh, would be discussed in the Colombo meeting.
   About SRMTS’s recommendations, the official said that the study suggested initiation of three types of projects for developing regional transport modalities.
   ‘The SRMTS recommends taking up of projects on national, bilateral and regional levels,’ the official said.
   The Manila-based lending agency’s proposal initially covers road transport and it is supposed to be expanded in the next stages encompassing railway, inland water and maritime.
   ‘A critical issue to consider at the outset is whether separate transport and transit agreements or a single framework agreement should be pursued,’ reveals the Bank’s proposal on ‘Regional Transport and Transit Agreement, a draft Regional/ Multilateral Railway Agreement etc’.
   It seeks that the countries should establish a regional trade and transport coordination committee to monitor the functioning of the cross- border trade and transport agreement.
   ‘The contracting parties mutually grant freedom of transit through each others’ territory for cargoes [and passengers] inbound to and outbound from the other contracting party,’ reads the proposal.
   Such a multilateral agreement, according to SAARC officials, would require signing of as many as 22 protocols on issues and areas such as Transit Traffic Charges, Transport Operator Permits for Cross-Border Operations, Border Crossing Infrastructure, Road and Bridge Design Standards, Road Transport Operator Licensing Standards, Rail Carrier Liability Regime, Multimodal Carrier Liability Regime, Driving License Requirements, Customs (Inland) Cargo Transit/Temporary Admission System and Customs Motor Vehicle/Container Temporary Admission System.
   The lending agency’s study on multi-modal transport arrangements has suggested building a network of 6,540-km railroad and 11,844-km road corridors.
   The roadmap also includes construction of 10 ports and 16 airports, and development of two inland waterways of 2,757 km length. It also includes construction of 10 regional roads and five rail corridors.

Source: The Daily New Age, 24 July 2009


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