Dechen Dolkar

The parliament is likely to ratify the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Charter this session.

The Charter, through its eleven chapters and thirty-six Articles, establishes the legal and institutional framework for BIMSTEC and outlines how BIMSTEC, as an inter-governmental regional organisation, would function.

It deals with the mandate and operational aspects of BIMSTEC, such as purposes and principles, membership, organs, immunities and privileges, decision-making, dispute settlement, administrative and procedural matters, and the budget and finances of the secretariat.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, the enforcement of the Charter will formalise the legal and institutional framework of BIMSTEC.

The ministry states that for a small country like Bhutan, such provisions are to our advantage as they provide clarity to the scope and functioning of BIMSTEC as an organization.

Article 5 of the Charter (Rights and Obligations) provides that member states are to take all measures deemed necessary, including the enactment of appropriate domestic legislation, to effectively implement the provisions of the Charter.

However, given that the Charter essentially establishes the legal and institutional framework of BIMSTEC, as provided in the Office of the Attorney General’s legal opinion prior to the signing of the Charter, the enactment of domestic legislation to implement the Charter is not deemed necessary.

Ministry officials also mentioned that, moreover, as Bhutan is already a member of BIMSTEC, the country does not foresee any social, economic, cultural, environmental, or political implications due to the ratification of the Charter.

Upon ratification of the Charter by the Parliament, the instrument of ratification will be deposited with the Secretary-General of BIMSTEC.

As per Article 26 of the Charter, any member state may propose amendments to the Charter. Proposed amendments to the Charter shall be submitted by the ministerial meeting to the BIMSTEC Summit for its decision.

The purpose of BIMSTEC is to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development through the identification and implementation of specific cooperation projects in the already-agreed areas of cooperation and other areas that may be agreed upon by the member states.

Member states may periodically review the areas of cooperation.