South Asian motor vehicles agreement hits a hurdle after Bhutan backs out

Bhutan has announced that it would not be able to ratify the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal motor vehicles agreement for the time being and asked the other stakeholders to go ahead with the plan without it.

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

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay. AFP.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay. AFP.

To facilitate the early implementation of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA), the Bhutan government has decided to give its consent for the entry into force of the agreement among the three member states without any obligation to it, the statement said.

"The agreement will enter into force for Bhutan after its ratification process is completed," it said.

The Bhutan government said it views the BBIN as a platform, encompassing key areas such as energy, trade, information, communication and technology. "Strengthening regional cooperation is especially significant for a landlocked country like Bhutan and the Royal Government remains fully committed to the BBIN process including the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement," it added.

Recognising the importance of connectivity for expansion of economic cooperation, the Transport Ministers of the four countries signed the agreement for regulation of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic on 15 June, 2015.

Right from the time the BBIN MVA was tabled for ratification, the draft legislation faced opposition in Bhutan. There have been fears of vehicular pollution and environmental degradation if trucks from neighbouring countries are given access to Bhutan.

To boost trade relations, India had proposed a regional cooperation pact in 2014 which entailed building a freight corridor connecting the south Asian nations with each other.

The MVA was proposed to reduce transport costs drastically and and foster development of multi-modal transport facilities for a better connectivity between the four countries.

In November last year, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay had allayed "misunderstandings" that the pact will lead to
vehicular pollution and garbage in the Himalayan kingdom.

He said if Bhutan were to opt out of the agreement, it would stand to lose as "it is not just about motor vehicles but about energy, trade, information, communication and technology, and other forms of regional cooperation."

Asserting that there is a misunderstanding on what BBIN means, he had said the agreement would actually regulate traffic.

India brought Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal on board for the pact signed in June last year in Thimphu to remove restrictions on vehicular movement in the subcontinent. The agreement will allows for the regulation of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic among the four countries.


Updated Date: Apr 28, 2017 19:17 PM

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