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Tuesday, Jan 21, 2020

Sub-regional road plan hits Bhutan’s happiness index speed bump

nationpaper Updated: Jul 10, 2016 07:49 IST
Jayanth Jacob and Moushumi Das Gupta
Jayanth Jacob and Moushumi Das Gupta

NEW DELHI: Bhutan’ s gross national happiness philosophy seems to have put the ambitious sub-regional road plan involving Bangladesh, India and Nepal on a bumpy turf.

Concerns over a large number of vehicles entering Bhutan after it ratifies the pact have given rise to many stakeholders protesting against the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) initiative.

The initiative is a sub-regional architecture to formulate, implement and review quadrilateral agreements in transport, water resources management, power connectivity and infrastructure.

Environment protection is one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s gross national happiness.

The pact passed the important hurdle of the lower house of Bhutan Parliament, National Assembly, last month. The upper house, National Council, is expected to debate on it in November.

To placate the opposition, transport operators and vocal citizens, Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay said the pact will not allow free flow of foreign vehicles into the country but regulate their movement.

But it may be a bumpy ride ahead for the pact, which has been ratified by the three other countries. Under the BBIN agreement, the “contracting parties” will allow vehicles for inter-country cargo, including-third-country cargo and passenger vehicles or personal vehicles, to ply in the territory of another contracting country “subject to the terms of the agreement”. “The larger objective is the seamless flow of people and goods in the region. Any restriction, which are beyond the reasonable, can bring trouble for any such agreements,” said an official.