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BIMSTEC is good for Bhutan, says foreign minister 

… ratifying its Charter would bring greater opportunities 

Jigmi Wangdi  

In the past 19 years as a member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Bhutan implemented various programmes. However, since the country did not ratify the BIMSTEC Charter, these activities remained at a low scale, according to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji. 

The minister was extolling on the benefits of ratifying the BIMSTEC Charter at the National Assembly yesterday. 

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi asked why Bhutan should ratify the Charter now when it had not been done in the past 19 years. He asked how Bhutan would benefit from ratifying the Charter. 

“Bhutan has been a member for around 19 years and other than strengthening relations with the member countries, there has been no significant benefit or change. If we adopt the Charter, we should ensure that there will be major benefits,” Dorji Wangdi said. 

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said that through BIMSTEC, a lot of work was done but because of the absence of a Charter, it could not be done at a larger scale. 

“For instance, the improved and accessible road between Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and India,” Lyonpo said. 

Lyonpo added that even as a member of SAARC, there were not many significant changes that can be shown. “Bhutan has a lot of opportunities by adopting the Charter.”

He said that India has contributed USD 1 million to strengthen BIMSTEC’s initiatives. 

“BIMSTEC member countries are discussing various areas of collaboration which could improve opportunities in free trade agreements, grid connectivity for electricity trade, where Bangladesh is a potential partner, and also opportunities in motor vehicle agreement and maritime transport,” Lyonpo said.

He said that BIMSTEC members are meeting soon to discuss these opportunities. 

The ratification and enforcement of the Charter will also reaffirm and strengthen Bhutan’s status as a sovereign nation which is one of the objectives of Bhutan’s foreign policy and membership in regional or international organisations. 

The Charter establishes clear provisions on the legal and institutional framework for BIMSTEC and outlines how BIMSTEC as an inter-governmental regional organization would function, according to the Member In-Charge of the Bill, Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji. 

Much of the deliberation also surrounded the equivalent Dzongkha term for Charter. Members said that kathrim, the Dzongkha word was inappropriate since it relates to Royal command. The House asked the Social and Cultural Committee to review and recommend an appropriate word for the term. 

Bhutan has been a member of BIMSTEC since 2004.