BBIN MVA is more of a sub-regional economic integration framework that has a host of benefits
| Sonam Tashi, Kolkata
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) is more than an agreement to allow vehicles of the four countries to ply freely. It is a sub-regional economic integration framework that would strengthen economic ties and ensure security, peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.
According to a researcher and business consultant, Khampa, Bhutan has more to gain from this affinity should we become a signatory to this framework. And this he said at the recently concluded Young Thinkers’ Conference on BBIN in Kolkata, India.
“Maybe we need some more time to work on the protocols of the agreement or maybe our government need to initiate a proper public discourse on the framework. At the moment, our people are of opinion that signing this agreement would allow swarms of foreign vehicles to ply in our country. But we have every right to rectify the protocols and submit our stance to the member nations. I am sure that they would never deny it,” said Khampa.
He mentioned that the government has to conduct a series of consultative meetings with all the relevant stakeholders and educate them of importance and merits of the framework.
Talking about BBIN and its security concerns, Shiv Raj Chhetri said that many Bhutanese think that signing the agreement would open the door for illegal cross-border trades and crimes.
“Maybe this is one reason why our people are reluctant to join this economic bloc,” he said.
“But these are small things that can be easily addressed. Going by what the other member nations express, I think we have to negotiate and rectify the agreement. And when we do so, we must keep in our mind the national goals first and tender our submissions next. There are certain things such as impacts of the pact on our nature, culture, and security that we have to deliberate within us before signing the agreement,” he said.
He mentioned that at the moment all three nations are willing to accept our terms and conditions which we have to capitalize.
“As much as we need to become a signatory to this framework, the three neighbours await for our affirmation so that this integration become stronger by one more country. Thus, we have to take it positively and without wasting much time, we have to wrap up our homework, and lend our hands,” said Shiv Raj Chhetri.
In a way, this economic integration can be a counter development to China’s rising influence in the continent. One Belt One Road policy is gaining momentum and many countries in Asia are falling in line with China, according to Imankalyan Lahiri, a Professor at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
Dr (PhD) Rakhahari Chatterji of the Kolkata Chapter of the Foundation said that BBIN MVA, in true sense, is just a process of making the old routes formally open to all the nations in the sub-region. “Some six decades ago, our people used to travel from Peshawar (Pakistan) to Rangoon (Myanmar) by road and there were other similar road-links since ages. But later, due to political upheaval in the region, the routes closed,” he said.
He mentioned that the idea behind this formation is not only to strengthen free flow of goods and services but also to integrate economics activities, promote peace and prosperity, and enhance interface within the sub-region.
Another speaker in the conference said that BBIN is an offshoot SAARC. “SAARC is more or less a failed bloc and the reason behind this is because of the political differences among the member states. The political choices among the member nations are very different and that cost a success of SAARC,” he said.
BBIN, he said, can prove itself to be better than SAARC with only four members. “And it has to prove considering good understandings among these four nations,” he added.
Meanwhile, the BBIN MVA was signed in July 2015 during the SAARC ministerial summit held in Thimphu. The three other nations could rectify the agreement but Bhutan failed to do so.
During its 19th session of the parliament, the members of National Council refused to sign the agreement stating that lot of homework are yet to be done before becoming a signatory to this framework.