Transport: Following a meeting with the Prime Minister and foreign minister, local truckers and taxi drivers expect their concerns to be considered when the government negotiates the details of the

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) in Bangladesh, next week.

A technical team from Bhutan will be in Dhaka, Bangladesh next week to work out details of the BBIN MVA such as the number of vehicles that can be allowed between countries, frequencies, and areas of operation, among others.

Representatives of the truckers, taxi drivers, and tourism industry, among others, submitted their concerns to the government yesterday in Thimphu.

The concerns included losing business to outside competition, risks of travelling beyond Assam and Bengal, local road infrastructure being overwhelmed, security issues, impact on the environment, use of subsidised fuel, and an increase in crime, among others.

Some of their proposals included limiting vehicles from Bangladesh and Nepal to the border or if not possible, to have in place a ceiling on the number of vehicles allowed.

However, the BBIN MVA does not permit for the inter-country operation of taxis, and disallows foreign trucks and buses from doing local business in the country being visited. It also does not allow for visiting vehicles to purchase fuel at an unsubsidised rate if available. The agreement imposes time limits on how long a visiting vehicle can spend in another country and all immigration and customs procedures still apply, among others.

“The BBIN (MVA) is very important, we want to make it work,” Dasho Kinley Dorji said.

A technical team will be leaving for Dhaka, Bangladesh shortly to work on details of the agreement.

All four countries will be represented at the meeting aimed at finalising passenger protocol for the agreement on March 29 and 30. However, according to Bangladeshi media, the cargo protocol is also likely to be discussed.

Dasho Kinley Dorji said that the negotiations will work out the details such as how many vehicles will be accepted between countries, the frequencies, and the areas where the vehicles will be permitted. These details will then be reviewed by the government, he explained, before the agreement is discussed for ratification in parliament.

“We’re positive about the BBIN (MVA) because it’s very important for sub-regional and regional cooperation,” Dasho Kinley Dorji said.

The secretary added that the truckers’ concerns mostly arose largely because they were unaware of the details. He added that the impression was that thousands of trucks and buses from neighbouring countries would be allowed to enter Bhutan.

“I think it’s understandable this sense of vulnerability, that this small country with big neighbours-if we’ve one-on-one agreements-we’ll be swamped,” Dasho Kinley Dorji said.

“It was clarified, in the end representatives of trucks, buses, cars, taxis, hoteliers, tourism, they all said they supported the government’s stand,” he added.

In an earlier interview, information and communications minister, DN Dhungyel said that Bhutan had requested Bangladesh to limit their cargo and bus services to the Bhutanese border. The same request was to be made to the Nepalese government. This is in line with the truckers’ proposal submitted yesterday.

Currently, an existing informal agreement exists with India which limits Indian trucks to within 5km of the Bhutanese border from where goods are transferred onto Bhutanese trucks.

On whether these issues would be discussed, the secretary said details about what exactly will be negotiated in Dhaka by the Bhutanese team cannot be revealed.

The BBIN MVA was signed in Thimphu in June last year.

However, four months later, the National Assembly resolved to review the agreement in its next session following concerns by the Opposition party.

The Bangladeshi ambassador and the former Indian ambassador also called for the BBIN MVA to be ratified by parliament as soon as possible.

Gyalsten K Dorji