Thursday, November 24, 2016

There are no doomsayers regarding BBIN Agreement.

Our faith in the future is clearer all due to the wisdom of ultimate leadership. Few  fair weather proponents for BBIN have  alleged that those who oppose the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement are being "doomsayers" . I can only think that may be, such vocals are predicting their own personal misfortunes. I feel that with or without BBIN Motor Agreement, Bhutan does not face any kind of "doomsday".

However, the reality is that Bhutan does not have a road network infrastructure to support the implimemtation of BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement. The nation also do not have the necessary immigration and security establishments that can cope with end result more influx of people and vehicles.

It is heartening to hear that few realistic  Diplomats from the neighbouring Countries also understand the logistical and infrastructural shortcomings within Bhutan.

My opposition to BBIN has nothing to do with who is the governing Political Party or who are supporting or opposing it. It is far more substantial and enduring. I do not express opinion to suit personal convenience.

I have heard people complaining about number of cars imported not because of strain on foreign currency reserve but because they say " just too many vehicles ". My position was and still is that Bhutanese especially those who own cars  cannot wish away the desire and necessity of fellow Bhutanese buying cars. New registration of taxis are restricted under Thimphu. To this I felt and still feel that Thimphu is the most lucrative taxi market and it should not be just the monopoly of those already registered taxi owners only.

Regardless of the limitation of road network, I sincerely believe that it must be shared with all Bhutanese citizens. However, when what we have is not sufficient to cater to Bhutanese citizen needs then for sure the nation is in no position to welcome additional foreign vehicles.

I have applauded recent Tourism and Immigration procedural reform on application for visitor permit by neighbouring tourists through licensed travel agents. The hope is that this procedure would decongest lineups at the border and also assist Bhutanese buses and taxis commercially.

Quite sometime back, there was also call for road connection with Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh). Such a connection would naturally strain the Samdrupjongkhar Tashigang highway besides other pros and cons. I did not think it was a prospective venture for Bhutan.

I have personally not suffered transport invonveniences since I hardly travel. Also I am not personally anxious about competition in transport tariff as I am not into transport business. However, I am aware of the road difficulties that travellers and transporters face. The main national highway from Phuentsholing to Thimphu has been brutalised by rain and land slides to the extent that presently high tonnage are still directed through Pasakha which has its own numerous difficulties and disadvantages. So one can imagine the poor  condition of motor roads elsewhere in Bhutan. Also foreign transport will naturally have competitive impact on the in-country taxis and trucks. And so national truckers and taxis will voice their apprehensions. No reasonable person should tag such people worried about their livelihoods as "doomsayers".

Bhutan's only transportation network is the motor-road system. The roads are not just narrow. The road network is simply fragile. Therefore, the problems of rain and land slides and constant floods that wash away bridges during rainy seasons and cause obstructions with ice and snow during Winter will remain yearly ordeals.  Bhutan is hard pressed to maintain the road system to cater to her own vehicular and transportation movement. I suppose Bhutanese especiallly those loud hyperbolic writers are aware that even the present fragile road system is kept in service condition with foreign men, money and management. 

Objection to BBIN Agreement is not based on ultimate doomsday if ever such an event is ever to happen. And it is not that Bhutanese in general are against close relations with Bangladesh, Nepal or India. It is not that those who see the repercussions are " doomsayers" as alleged. Citizens will voice their concerns for various reasons. Some will express support for the Government initiatives  and some would express their opposition. The Government would have its own reasons and obligations in promoting the Agreement. The Government cannot be tagged as "destroyers" just as those who oppose cannot be tagged as " doomsayers.    It is for the MPs in the Parliament to now decide whether the Agreement executed by the Government is to be ratified or not.

Whatever is the ultimate decision, it should not be deemed as bringing about or preventing  "doomsday". The Kingdom has adequate collective wisdom and merit to ward of any such unthinkable unfortunate eventuality. .

Regional diplomats seem to understand that Bhutanese national  infrastructures may as yet not be ready for BBIN Agreement implementation. World recognised Institutions are ready to acknowledge that Bhutan is least corrupted in this part of the Region. However, within Bhutan, few vehemently disagrees and their voices do get expounded as they have media friends in other countries. Perceptions so created by such people may temporarily darken the national image.  However, in the end game, facts matter in national life whether in Bhutan or elsewhere.

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