Bhutan’s National Council refused to ratify the Motor Vehicles Agreement:
Bhutan’s National Council (NC) voted down the sub-SAARC motor vehicle zone among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN).
India, Bangladesh and Nepal have already ratified the MVA, after Foreign Ministers of the BBIN nations signed an agreement to allow ease of motor vehicular traffic on June 15, 2015 and diplomats did a trial run among the countries.
Bhutan’s National Assembly or Lower House had cleared the Bill and forwarded it to the National Council with the hope it would be passed by year end.
However, protests from the Opposition, mainly over environmental concerns of vehicular pollution increasing have derailed the process.
What is BBIN?
The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative is a sub-regional architecture of countries in South Asia. It meets through official representation of member states to formulate, implement and review quadrilateral agreements across areas such as water resources management, connectivity of power, transport, and infrastructure.
Significance of BBIN:
Along with its potential as a road link that will extend to rail and waterways reducing circuitous shipping routes by 1,000 km, the BBIN grouping is also seen as India’s way of countering Pakistan in the SAARC grouping.
With India pulling out of the SAARC, any hopes of the South Asian body clearing the agreement ended, which gave the BBIN grouping even more prominence.
What is Motor Vehicle Agreement?
India proposed a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement during the SAARC Summit in 2014. Due to objections from Pakistan, an agreement could not be reached. India instead pursued a similar motor vehicle agreement with the BBIN.
The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement was signed on 15 June 2015. It enables vehicles to enter any of the four nations without the need for trans-shipment of goods from one country's truck to another's at the border.
Under the system, cargo vehicles are tracked electronically, permits are issued online and sent electronically to all land ports. Vehicles are fitted with an electronic seal that alerts regulators every time the container door is opened.
Prior to the signing of the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement, the truck would have had to travel 1550 km through Indian territory to reach Agartala. Officials cited this as an example of the time and cost savings that the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement would bring.