Moushumi Das Gupta and Jayanth Jacob,HT, 18 Nov 2016, NEW DELHI: The ambitious subregional road connectivity plan involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN), an initiative pushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to boost regional integration, has hit a stumbling block with Bhutan parliament’s upper house deciding against ratifying the motor vehicle pact.
The BBIN agreement – signed in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu in July – will become operational only when all the four countries ratify it. India, Bangladesh and Nepal have already ratified the pact.
The National Council, the upper house of Bhutan parliament, on Wednesday deciding against ratifying the pact.
The pact will allow seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries. Under the agreement, the “contracting parties” will allow cargo vehicles for intercountry cargo including third country cargo and passenger vehicles or personal vehicles to ply in the territory of another contracting country “subject to the terms of the agreement”.
All vehicles, however, will require a permit for plying through the other country.
This is the second time that India’s connectivity plan has hit a stumbling block. Earlier, Pakistan scuppered the SAARC motor vehicle agreement by refusing to come on board.
India then decided to tap its eastern neigbours to boost regional connectivity. India moved to have a sub-regional agreement with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan to remove restrictions on vehicular movement in the subcontinent.
Officials in the Union road transport and highways ministry said many people in Bhutan, including lawmakers, expressed concern over the environmental impact of allowing large number of vehicles enter the country.
“The lower house of Bhutan parliament had approved the pact earlier this year. But on Wednesday, the upper house decided against it. This might derail the entire plan as any restrictions which are beyond the reasonable won’t be accepted by the other member countries,” said a ministry official.
India has bilateral motor vehicle agreements with Nepal and Bangladesh but a multilateral pact would go a long way in boosting trade.