BBIN issue was politicized heavily – PM

Prime Minister responds to queries from journalists during the Meet The Press yesterday.

Going by the recent Indian media reports, India is trying to make a fresh pitch for BBIN (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal) Motor Vehicles Agreement with Nepal and Bangladesh now to ensure that this ambitious sub-regional road connectivity plan sees the light of the day.

The government had not been able to ratify the BBIN pact last year following stiff domestic opposition, especially after majority of the National Council members voted not to ratify the pact. However, the government maintained that it would look into other ways and have Bhutan ratify the agreement.

However, Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay, during the Meet The Press session yesterday, said the government has done its due diligence and it will be up to the future parliament and government now to rectify the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement.

“We have maintained that we stand to gain more than sacrifice,” the Lyonchhen said, adding that the opportunities were far more than the risks. “We were able to negotiate the situation where our vehicles can enter other countries, whereas their vehicles stop at our borders.”

The PM said that they thought that this would be good for Bhutan. “However, this issue was politicized heavily and people still feel that there would have been pollution, cultural degradation and Bhutanese vehicles would not be able to operate within Bhutan.”

However, he added that they stand by the recommendations. “Perhaps this is too early and during our government’s time we may not pursue it.  It will up to the next parliament and government,” Lyonchhen said.

Meanwhile, information and communications minister, D.N. Dhungyel elucidated that India, Bangladesh and Nepal have come to an agreement to implement the BBIN, although initially Bangladesh had some reservations in the legality of implementing it without Bhutan ratifying the BBIN.

“Since the frame work agreement required all four countries to ratify it, for it to be implemented. Bhutan has not been able to ratify BBIN due to several concerns raised by the parliamentarians. However, we will continue to work on it to convince the parliament,” the minister said.

During the second foreign office consultation between Bangladesh and Nepal in Dhaka on October 8 2017, the two sides recognized that operationalization of the Motor Vehicle Agreement signed by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal would help flourish trade and people to people connectivity in the region. Although the deal has not come into force yet, Dhaka and Kathmandu agreed to discuss with India about the modalities for the early implementation of the accord.

“We will continue to convince the parliamentarians about the benefits of the BBIN and how the negative impacts will be minimized. Hopefully, it will be passed in the third parliament,” Lyonpo D.N. Dhungyel said.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu