It comes as heartening news that Bhutan’s Upper House – the National Council – has rejected the terribly ruinous BBIN MVA. If this Agreement gets ratified, all sorts of problems will overwhelm Bhutan – and we do not have the wherewithal to stand up to the forces that will come into play.
But alas! I suspect that we may not be able to stall it for long. Already events have been set into motion that tells me that we have to soon, as the Indians would say “ink the Agreement”.
So what exactly is this Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN MVA)?
India originally proposed the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement during the Kathmandu SAARC Summit in 2014. Opposition by one of the Members - Pakistan, torpedoed the plan. India then pursued its aspirations through the BBIN - a sub regional body called the South Asian Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ) – of which Pakistan is not a member. With the effective exclusion of the “stick-in-the-mud” Pakistan from the grouping, it was possible for India to have the Motor Vehicle Agreement signed by the BBIN member states on 15th June, 2015. Bhutan is a signatory to the Agreement.
However, signing the Agreement is not enough – it has to be ratified by the Parliament.
Bhutan’s on-again, off-again process of ratification began in real earnest – first during the 6th Session of the Second Parliament. Despite the Opposition’s impassioned plea to delay the ratification in order that its implications could be understood properly, the National Assembly ratified the BBIN MVA on 17th November, 2015 based on 22 YES votes, 14 NO votes and 3 ABSTENTIONS.
Three days later, the ratification was unceremoniously REVOKED! – because the Parliament had failed to read the fine print in the Constitution. The Parliament had ratified the BBIN MVA on the strength of the majority votes of the sitting MPs while the Constitution calls for majority vote of the total strength of the MP – 24 votes.
Once again, during its 7th Session of Second Parliament, Bhutan’s National Assembly ratified the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN MVA) on 21st June, 2016 with 28 votes in its favor. However, to pass into law, it now requires the Upper House of the Parliament to endorse it.
The Upper House rejected the BBIN MVA. So for now the BBIN MVA hasn't passed into law. But for how long?