The BBIN is a sub-regional initiative of India, including Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal after Pakistan pulled out of a SAARC Motor vehicle agreement.
Though Bhutan had nothing much to gain or do with the agreement, the government played along to be a part of India’s sub-regional diplomatic effort.
However, the government, as pointed out by the National Council, not only failed to adequately consult many local stakeholders, but also did not do enough homework on its potential impact as the smallest and most vulnerable member of BBIN.
As is the norm in Bhutan, a perfunctory consultation was done and the government without much stats and research assured the country of BBIN’s positives ‘benefits’ . The NC as a result has had to point out a lot of obvious issues and flaws.
The government clearly did not read the mood in the country, especially in the light of a large increase in the number of regional tourists and vehicles in Bhutan that are having a significant and ever growing impact on our environment, traffic, culture, society and high value tourism sector.
With the government not being able to even regulate such mass movement into Bhutan, there was little confidence in its ability to ensure BBIN does not make it worse.
In 2008 both Bhutan and India agreed to 10,000 MW by 2020 between the two countries. However, there is now a growing feeling in Bhutan that when it came to the specific projects and details both the former and current governments in Bhutan have failed to do justice, with key Inter Governmental projects like Sunkosh and Kuri Gongri lying unimplemented and instead more focus being given on problematic Joint Ventures.
Similarly while BBIN is a larger agreement there seems to be little confidence from the NC that the government will later be able to resist external pressures based on the agreement.
NC’s decision is not just an intellectual debate but there are much larger issues behind it. The government should realize that the public has welcomed the NC’s move.
“In trying to please all, he had pleased none.”