India on Wednesday refused to take as a “setback” Bhutan’s decision of not immediately ratifying a sub-regional connectivity initiative, saying it is natural that all members cannot move at the same speed and that it will remain engaged with the Bhutanese government. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, “It is our understanding that all members of BBIN (Bangladesh -Bhutan-India-Nepal) are fully committed to sub-regional cooperation within BBIN framework.”
Last week, Bhutan had announced that it would not be ratifying the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA) for the time being and asked other stakeholders to go ahead with the plan without it. Baglay said, “It is natural that all members cannot move at the same speed on all matters. We continue to consult with the BBIN members on ways and means to foster sub-regional cooperation in areas of common interest.” “But it is not a setback and it is not a rejection,” he added.
The Bhutan foreign ministry, in a statement, had said while the other three countries in the grouping 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.
To facilitate the early implementation of the BBIN MVA, Bhutan said it had decided to give its consent to the other three member states to go ahead with the pact implementation.
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 foster development of multi-modal transport facilities for a better connectivity among the four countries.