Bhutan’s snub leaves BBIN agreement in the balance

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Apr 29, 2017-

Unable to ratify the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement, Bhutan has asked the other stakeholders to go ahead with the plan without it, leaving three other members in a fix.

Bhutan has communicated its decision to the Nepali Embassy in Delhi, which is yet to be forwarded to the Foreign Ministry.

Indian media has claimed that it come as a serious setback as Bhutan is considered as close strategic partner of India.

After Bhutan left the sub-regional cooperation, the remaining stakeholders should sit and take a decision on ways to implement it, said a senior official at the Foreign Ministry, adding that no discussion has been taken place so far. “The three remaining members would take a decision on implementation without Bhutan,” said the official “For this, India should take a lead.”

The four South Asian nations signed the BBIN agreement in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu last June, in what was seen as a first model of the sub-regional cooperation. The agreement would allow for the regulation of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic among the four countries.

However, there have been reservations among some sections within Bhutan about the viability of this agreement given that it was a small country.

While the other three countries have already ratified the agreement, the Government of Bhutan is in the process of completing its internal procedures for ratification to address the concerns raised by the domestic stakeholders, the Bhutanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Bhutanese government decided to give its consent to the remaining member states to facilitate the early implementation of BBIN agreement without any obligation to Bhutan, added the statement. “The agreement will enter into force for Bhutan after its ratification process is completed.”

After the Bhutanese parliament failed to ratify the agreement, not only the Indian media, but Bhutanese media also started pouring comments against Indian failure. 

A prominent news portal, The Bhutanese said, the Indian government has also been lobbying with Bhutan’s government to pass the BBIN agreement as it is India’s sub-regional project to circumvent Pakistan’s rejection of the original Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement.” It is also seen as one of Prime Minister Modi’s sub-regional diplomatic initiatives.”

The former Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Gautam Bambawale, in an unprecedented address in 2015 had called on the parliament to pass the BBIN.

When the National Council rejected the bill in 2016, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson had said that BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement was signed in Thimphu in 2015 by the representatives of the four governments. 

The spokesperson said that the National Assembly of Bhutan had endorsed the BBIN in 2016, and forwarded it to the National Council of Bhutan for consideration. The spokesperson said, “We hope that the Royal Government of Bhutan will be able to complete necessary internal procedures for operationalisation of the Agreement at an early date.”

The Bhutanese media reported that the agreement could not be ratified due to the upcoming general elections in the kingdom. 

Published: 29-04-2017 07:58

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