Millennium Post

Member nations are fully committed to BBIN MVA framework, says India

India downplayed reports that Bhutan's rejection of the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA) was a setback to India's ambitious proposal.

"It is not a setback and it's understood that all the members are fully committed to the BBIN framework," said Gopal Baglay, official spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs.

"However, all members may not have the same speed on the matter, so we continue to be committed to the BBIN agreement, because it is a means to foster sub-regional cooperation in areas of common interest. It is not a setback and not a rejection," he said.

Recently, Bhutan's Upper House has rejected a move to join the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN-MVA) citing environmental concern. It was indeed a setback for the incumbent Prime Minister of Bhutan Shering Tobgay who was very keen to join the sub regional framework for connectivity which might bring more prosperity for the common people of Bhutan.

After the National Assembly or the Lower House of Bhutanese Parliament passed the agreement, it was sent to Upper House for approval. But the lawmakers felt the BBIN agreement would be detrimental for the environment of the state.

Bhutan Prime Minister was so enthusiastic about the regional network that last year he invited West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the state and apprised her of possible road connectivity between West Bengal and Bhutan once the BBIN agreement is in operation. But the National assembly voted against the agreement, creating a roadblock for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's smart diplomatic initiative to isolate Pakistan on this much touted project.

Pakistan had already vetoed the project in the last SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu, where Indian Prime Minister proposed this agreement.

Interestingly, the 'Three Year Action Agenda' released by the Niti Aayog last week has fully endorsed the BBIN framework and said that over the next three years, the government should move ahead with securing motor vehicles agreements to other Southeast Asian nations of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Although yet to be fully implemented, the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement 2015 should be used as a benchmark, it recommended.

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