India hopes for Bhutan’s ratification of BBIN soon

Kolkata, Feb 16 (IANS) Ahead of the implementation of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA), India remains hopeful that Bhutan would ratify the accord soon, top officials said on Thursday.

The four South Asian nations had already signed the BBIN Agreement in June 2016 in Thimphu and the accord was seen as a significant symbol of sub-regional unity.

Despite ratifications by three partner countries, Bhutan’s Upper House has not yet ratified the deal, citing environmental as well as livelihood concerns.

However, according to an official from the Royal Government of Bhutan, the country “could ratify in May-June”.

“We are hopeful Bhutan will ratify it soon and are eagerly waiting for it. Four countries have been negotiating the protocols and standard operating procedures for the implementation. We made some headway,” said Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ Deputy Secretary A.D. James here.

The investments were being made in roads infrastructure linking the four countries, he said at an event ‘Facilitating implementation and stakeholder buy-in in the BBIN sub-region’ organised by Cuts International here.

“The agreement is still to be ratified by Bhutan and they have some concerns, though we are very hopeful. In fact, we appreciate the steps being taken by the Bhutanese government for explaining the benefits of the integration,” said Joint Secretary of Commerce Ministry (SAARC/South Asia) Bhupinder Singh Bhalla.

Although the Bhutanese government was committed to the agreement, the people in the country raised some issues.

“… In regards to BBIN, lot of issues were expressed on the possible negative impacts pertaining to the environment protection and local livelihood. The issue of culture was also raised,” Bhutan’s Ministry of Information and Communications Secretary Dasho Karma W. Penjor said.

“Even with the countries which already ratified it, operational issues still exist,” Penjor added.

The ratification was expected from the National Council, when the Upper House of Bhutan Parliament meets in May-June, he told IANS.

The Lower House has already ratified it.

Meanwhile, the Narendra Modi government has been undertaking cargo trial runs in order to seek solution to challenges that may arise after the implementations, the official said.

“We undertook a trial run with cargo consignment from Dhaka to Delhi in August 2016. Usually, it takes 10-15 days to reach such consignment. During the trial run it reached in five days, reducing two-third of associated logistic cost,” James told IANS.

The implementation of the agreement is expected to improve the value chain in sub-regional trade.

Bhalla said the BBIN sub-grouping was expected to be the gateway to southeast and east Asia. India is working for development of interconnectivity infrastructure for Myanmar and Thailand.