Thursday, November 26, 2015

Different kind of Anxieties on Bilateral or Multilateral Agreements.

The proposed ratification of BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement by Bhutan resulted in a faux incident.  It was passed and then deemed not passed as the constitutionally required votes was not there to legitimise ratification.

There is no doubt that Bhutan will have to ratify the 4 nation Agreement because India wants it to be passed. However, do not think this BBIN Agreement can prevent India from blocking transit facilities if she so wants to as in the present blockade of Nepal. Like Bhutan, Nepal, too, has free trade and transit Agreement with India and what good has it done ?

This proposed ratification of BBIN has caused a lot of cries of foul in the Bhutanese social medias. Those against the Agreement were of the opinion that such an Agreement between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal would drastically increase the number of foreign registered vehicles on the Bhutanese roads and  negatively affect both environment and transport business of Bhutanese. The concerns though valid are quite late and futile because Bhutan already has similar arrangements with India. And with Bangladesh, the transit issue through India is a stumbling block otherwise Bhutanese and Bangladesh Trucks would already be ferrying goods to each other Countries. 

I, on the other hand, have a very different perspective. My own concern for any Bilateral and Multilateral Agreement is more to do with the ability or more specifically the inability of a small nation to hold the larger and more powerful Signatories to the terms of the Agreement.

The two major recent incidents in South Asia demonstrated that the terms and conditions of any Bilateral and Multilateral Agreement is only a noose around the smaller and weaker Signatories and any favourable advantage is ultimately subject to the whims of the more powerful and geographically superior Signatories. Therefore, Agreements and Treaties with powerful Co- Signatories does not provide actual reliefs to small nations as a matter of rights under the terms of such Agreement or Treaties.

Both India and Nepal are members of WTO. And yet in all reality this did not stop India from imposing a trade and transit embargo against land locked Nepal. And worse most of the powerful members of WTO are silent as a ghost to Nepal's right of free trade and transit both as a land locked nation and a member of WTO.

India and Nepal had executed a Bilateral Fuel Supply Agreement. India agreed to supply all of Nepal fuel needs and Nepal was not to procure any type of fuel from any third  source. In keeping with the terms of the Agreement, Nepal had not explored any third supply source. Thus  when India unilaterally stopped fuel supply, Nepal was left frustratingly helpless. No fuel and no ability to hold powerful and geographically superbly advantaged  India accountable for breaching the terms of the Bilateral Agreement on Fuel Supply as well as the Agreement on Free Trade and Transit executed between India and Nepal.

The 1948 Indo- Bhutan Treaty was renegotiated in 2006 specifically to do away with Indian Guidance in the External Affairs of Bhutan. In return Bhutan also agreed to the deletion of the Annuity Clause that in essence records that historically the Duars region of India was Bhutanese territory at one time. But the reality turned out to be a more humiliating renegotiated Indo- Bhutan Treaty of 2006. The political crisis in 2013 demonstrated that Bhutan lost her historical claims on Duars region and India did not recognise Bhutanese right to conduct even a " Handshake " with a foreign power without Indian consent. The incident also proved that India can exploit powerful friends among Bhutanese who are most willing to compromise national sovereignty for short time  political gains of personal nature.

Thus any solace or deemed advantage provided under the terms and conditions of Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements or Treaties are just fringe benefits to small and land locked weak nations and these can be denied at any time for any imaginative reasons by the powerful Co- Signatories. This is not to say that Bhutan should not be a Signatory to Bilatetial or Multilateral Treaties. But optimism should be measured with reality.

2 comments:

  1. The Present PDP Government is Compromising Bhutanese Sovereignty with India and trying to make one of Indian Semi Autonomous state. Instead the government could be far more better if the Trade Link open in Northern side not too much dependent to the southern side.

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  2. .....The political crisis in 2013 demonstrated that Bhutan lost her historical claims on Duars region and India did not recognise Bhutanese right to conduct even a " Handshake " with a foreign power without Indian consent. The incident also proved that India can exploit powerful friends among Bhutanese who are most willing to compromise national sovereignty for short time political gains of personal nature.....Wangcha Sangay hit the nail on the head.

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