Skip to main content

No full stops: On Bhutan’s exit from the ‘BBIN’ agreement (.hindu)

Bhutan’s exit from the ‘BBIN’ agreement should not hold up the road-sharing pact

Bhutan’s announcement that it is unable to proceed with the Motor Vehicles Agreement with Bangladesh, India and Nepal is a road block, and not a dead end, for the regional sub-grouping India had planned for ease of access among the four countries. The sub-grouping, BBIN as it is referred to, was an alternative mooted by the government after Pakistan rejected the MVA at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014. It seeks to allow trucks and other commercial vehicles to ply on one another’s highways to facilitate trade. Of the other SAARC members, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are not connected by land, and Afghanistan could only be connected if Pakistan was on board. Down to just three countries now after Thimphu’s decision, India, Nepal and Bangladesh will have to decide whether to wait for Bhutan to reconsider or to press ahead with a truncated ‘BIN’ arrangement. The first option will not be easy. The main concern expressed by Bhutanese citizen groups and politicians is over increased vehicular and air pollution in a country that prides itself on ecological consciousness. The upper house of parliament has refused to ratify the MVA that was originally signed by all four BBIN countries in 2015, and the official announcement indicates that Thimphu will not push the agreement ahead of elections in 2018.

Despite the setback, New Delhi must persevere with its efforts. To begin with, Bhutan’s objections are environmental, not political, and its government may well change its mind as time goes by. Dry runs have been conducted along the routes, and officials estimate the road links could end up circumventing circuitous shipping routes by up to 1,000 km. Second, Bhutan’s concerns may be assuaged if India considers the inclusion of waterways and riverine channels as a less environmentally damaging substitute. Perhaps, Bhutan’s objections may even spur an overhaul of emission standards for trucks currently plying in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Above all, the BBIN pact denotes a “can-do” attitude on India’s part, as it shows a willingness to broaden its connectivity canvas with all countries willing to go ahead at present, leaving the door open for those that may opt to join in the future. A similar initiative for the Asian Highway project under the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) corridor got a boost this week as the countries moved to upgrade the dialogue to the governmental level. Although India has refused to attend China’s Belt and Road summit on May 14-15, objecting to projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the BCIM will remain a way of joining the network when India’s concerns are met. Connectivity is the new global currency for growth and prosperity as it secures both trade and energy lines for countries en route, and India must make the most of its geographic advantages.

Popular posts from this blog

Cloud seeding

Demonstrating the function of the flare rack that carries silver iodide for cloud-seeding through an aircraft. 
Water is essential for life on the earth. Precipitation from the skies is the only source for it. India and the rest of Asia are dependent on the monsoons for rains. While the South West Monsoon is the main source for India as a whole, Tamil Nadu and coastal areas of South Andhra Pradesh get the benefit of the North East Monsoon, which is just a less dependable beat on the reversal of the South West Monsoon winds.

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…