Dhaka, Bangladesh – In a bid to enhance regional connectivity, Bangladesh is fast-tracking preparations for the Dhaka-Kathmandu international bus service, covering a distance of 813 kilometers. This initiative aims to facilitate Nepali students studying in Bangladesh and ease travel for Bangladeshis visiting Nepal.
The push for this international bus service comes as Bangladesh has been actively preparing to operate bus services on four new routes within Nepal and India. The borders between Nepal and Bangladesh, separated by the Siliguri Corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck, pose a geographical challenge as it is a 22-kilometer stretch of Indian territory dividing southeastern Nepal and northern Bangladesh.
The BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal) motor vehicles agreement, facilitated by the Asian Development Bank in June 2015, has seen progress, except for Bhutan, which is yet to agree to it.
Reports from The Daily Sun suggest that Bangladesh has initiated groundwork to launch the bus service connecting Nepal and India. With a growing interest among passengers for more economical bus services, the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation plans to operate an international bus service on four new routes.
While a trial bus service from Dhaka to Kathmandu took place on April 25, 2018, and another from Dhaka to Darjeeling on December 12, 2019, the former did not progress beyond the trial phase due to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new international service is set to connect Dhaka with Kathmandu, Chatgaun with Kolkata, Dhaka with Gangtok, and Darjeeling with Barishal and Kolkata. Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, West Bengal Transport Corporation, and Shyamoli NR Travels will jointly operate this service.
Tazul Islam, Chairman of the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, highlighted the progress in discussions between Nepal and Bangladesh regarding the Dhaka-Kathmandu bus route. However, geopolitical interests have introduced complexities to the international bus service.
Islam expressed optimism that once the visa issues are resolved and agreements are reached between the two countries, the bus service with Nepal will commence. Despite challenges, Bangladesh hopes to overcome border restrictions tightened by India after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The proposed bus service is expected to benefit Nepali students studying in Bangladesh and facilitate travel for Bangladeshi tourists visiting Nepal. In 2023, Nepal received 36,483 Bangladeshi tourists, according to the Department of Immigration.
The distance between Kathmandu and Dhaka is over 1,184 kilometers, and the bus journey is anticipated to take approximately 24 hours. The collaboration between Nepal and Bangladesh dates back to a 2012 agreement at a foreign secretary-level meeting, focusing on establishing direct bus services. However, without a dedicated bilateral agreement between Nepal and India on the use of Indian territory, the plan failed to materialize.
Additionally, both nations signed an agreement on the carriage of transit cargo, providing Nepal access to Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh. As Bangladesh progresses in finalizing plans for the Dhaka-Kathmandu international bus service, it signals a significant step towards fostering regional connectivity and strengthening diplomatic ties.