India, Bangladesh, Nepal officials to meet in June over BBIN connectivity; Bhutan backs out

Officials of India, Nepal and Bangladesh will meet in June to finalize a truncated sub-regional connectivity plan after Bhutan retreated.

Bhutan backed off from the BBIN (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal) connectivity plan this year after the proposal failed to sail through in its parliament. Bhutanese legislators are worried the BBIN plan may cause environmental trouble for their country that prides itself on ecological consciousness.

BBIN seeks to allow trucks and other commercial vehicles to ply on one another’s highways to facilitate trade.

Unlike in India, parliamentary ratification is necessary for Bhutan to enter international agreements. Indian government sources said the plan now is to roll out connectivity agreements among India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The meeting in June will plan for this at an early date.

“The door will be open for Bhutan as and when they are ready for it,” said an official. But Bhutan backing off from the initial plan calls for changing of routes and other procedures.

Meanwhile, a similar initiative for the Asian Highway project under the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) corridor got a boost last month as the countries moved to upgrade the dialogue to the governmental level.

Connectivity is the new global currency for growth and prosperity as it secures both trade and energy lines for countries en route, and India wants to make the most of its geographic advantages based on its ‘Look East policy’ for now.

India did not attend China’s Belt and Road summit on May 14-15, objecting to projects in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. However, the BCIM will remain a way of joining the network when India-Pakistan issues are settled, experts say.

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