To cooperate in combating international terrorism, transnational organized crime and illicit drug trafficking, the National Assembly adopted the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Convention.
There are seven member states, including Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
The convention is to facilitate and strengthen collaboration and sharing of information among the member states, said the Foreign Minister, adding the convention is crucial in countering terrorism in seven BIMSTEC member countries. “It has been ratified by all except Bhutan.”
During the deliberation, the Foreign Minister shared that if Bhutan ratifies the convention, like other member states the country is agreeing to cooperate in fighting terrorism, transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
He added that the member countries also agree to share information on the associates of the criminals including those providing front or cover to such individuals or groups as well as those which may operate from or use the territory of a member state for this purpose.
Meanwhile, the MP of Panbang , Dorji Wangdi, raised concerns over the extradition of criminals within the member states. He said that for extradition, there has to be separate agreement between different countries.
“We have an extradition agreement with India only. So, ratifying the convention means allowing extradition. How convenient would it be considering we have an extradition agreement with India,” he questioned.
Likewise, Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi shared the concern of making extradition agreement with the rest of the member states of the seven members.
“We are aware that we have extradition agreement with India which means now, we will have to make extradition agreement with the rest of the member states. “I am not sure if we have a good relationship with the rest of the five member states,” he said.
He added that the government must have considered all these while presenting the convention in the house. “After ratifying the convention, we would want to know if signing extradition agreement with the other five countries won’t be any problem later.”
Answering the question raised by members, the Foreign Minister said the government does not see any probable issues in signing extradition agreement with other five member states if it is required.
He informed the house that the Extradition Act 1991 will have to be amended a bit according to the Office of the Attorney General. “If it has to be amended, we will put it here in the House.”
“Bhutan does not have any issues with the member states of BIMSTEC as of now,” he said, adding he does not see any problems arising in signing extradition agreement with the other five member states if it is necessary.
Dr Tandi Dorji said as of now, government does not share diplomatic ties with many countries and this is why it is important for Bhutan to sign regional agreements like SAARC and BIMSTEC.
The members finalized the BIMSTEC Convention on combating international terrorism, transnational organized crime and illicit drug trafficking during the 2008 BIMSTEC Summit.
BIMSTEC Summit declaration in New Delhi in 2004 saw member states vowing to not allow their territory to be used by terrorist groups for launching attacks against friendly governments.
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu