Saturday, May 11, 2013

My thoughts on Party Presidents Meet, BBS TV, 8th May, 2013

It was lengthy by any standard but not much of a standard in content to compare to any other forum excluding NC candidates’ debate.

One could summarize that Chirwang was for younger leadership, Nyamrup for equity from inequity, Druk Phuensum for continuation and better days and People’s Democratic for a complete change. The ideologies are prerogatives of each individual political party and anyway their charter and manifesto are already approved by the Election Commission. So there is no comment.

However, just to excite my viewers on the blog, here are my views on some issues raised during the Presidents Meet.

1.       Leadership young or old
Democracy grants voters the choice of leadership. Therefore change in leadership cannot be granted or dictated by any Political Party or group of individuals. All can make their case to the people so that Bhutanese voters can make their choice of leadership.

2.       People must be alert lest power falls in the hands of one or two individuals
This concern was voiced quite frequently by most of the party presidents. That was revealing. When challenged by the former Prime Minister, PDP President said he was expressing future concern. Is there a concern among Bhutanese that the country may be heading towards dictatorship or revert to King’s rule due to political disarray?

3.       Rupee crisis and loans
Rupee crisis and loans will remain part of financial complexities for Bhutan no matter which Party comes to power. Progress and development need fund and our internal resources are limited. Even after 2020, it will not be possible to be free of loan or rupee crisis unless our external relationship dynamo changes and we receive major aid packages. Most Nations in the world are undergoing such monetary crisis even in developed European countries.

In my view if any Political Party assures continuous prosperity and at the same time fulfillment of people’s aspirations without loans and without rupee crisis, then there is one looming danger, the fate of Kingdom of Sikkim. No loans, no rupee crisis and no sovereignty but continuous development to meet social and economic needs of the people. India upholds all responsibilities for the state of Sikkim.

4.       Road and foreign relations
The former Prime Minister did not specifically make reference to these two subjects. In fact rural road condition issue was raised by PDP President. However, the President of DPT did state that the performance report of 1st Democratic Government was submitted to the nation in the last session of the Parliament. In that report it was highlighted that new motor roads exceeded all that were constructed prior to 2008. And diplomatic relation expanded greatly. Statistic figures were provided to illustrate the leaps and bounds.

I felt that comparison of pre and post 2008 developments in road and diplomatic relationship need to be delicately handled and especially accurately and realistically recorded. Many view such declaration as unfair criticism of past government under the 3rd and 4th Kings.

The fact is that any and all diplomatic efforts of the 1st Democratic Government pales in comparison to membership to Colombo Plan, United Nations, Non-Aligned, SAARC, many international organizations and opening of international agency offices within Bhutan. During the reigns of the 3rd and 4th King, diplomatic relationship was purposefully restricted to the most indispensible and beneficial to the Kingdom of Bhutan.

The fair weather road connections to almost all geogs of the Kingdom is admirable and even if some of these roads are not pliable during snow and rain yet I am sure unlike the sneering urbanites, the farmers in rural Bhutan are very grateful. The farmers would rather have a fair weather road than no road at all.
Due to budget, time and human resource constraints, such farm roads had to be of fair weather condition. However, it will be easier for the next government to improve upon what have been laid already. Likewise during the government lead by the Kings, other priorities and pressing urgencies had to be met from limited financial and human resources. And because so many essential social and economic needs were fulfilled prior to 2008, these very achievements enabled the 1st Democratic Government to fulfill majority of their commitments.

5.        Relationship with India is non-negotiable was one of the declared political stand
Indo-Bhutan relation has always been and probably will ever be always the corner stone of Bhutan’s foreign policy. Bhutan cannot forsake India under any circumstance and India should realize the futuristic wisdom of allowing Bhutan necessary sovereignty in its foreign relation especially with China.
However in so far as relationship is concerned be it personal, national, international (bilateral or multi lateral) are negotiable. There is no such thing as status quo (stagnation) or non-negotiable. Relationships have to mature, improve, change for better and be in tune with the changing time, maturity and aspirations of individuals, groups and nations etc.

Sino-Bhutan Relationship was not directly mentioned but indirectly the declared political stand “Indo-Bhutan relation is non-negotiable” maybe alluding to anonymous sources’ criticism of Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley meeting with Chinese Premier.

I have always respected India and will always remain grateful to Prime Minister Nehru for making the arduous journey to give birth to Indo-Bhutan friendship. However, I am in favour of better relation with China. My feelings on Sino-Bhutan relation was made public long before the advent of Bhutanese Democracy.

Sino-Bhutan relation has always been a concern to Bhutan since ages and more so from the time Tibet became an autonomous region of China. We have held many sessions of border talks in the most cordial atmosphere and officials of both countries have exchanged visits. In the Sino-Bhutan Border Agreement, we have committed to promote friendly relations between the two countries

No nation in the world is ignoring China. Our next door ASEAN neighbour Myanmar has finally broken the trade and diplomatic embargo imposed by the West only because China did not fail Myanmar. The public pretext of European and American overtures to Myanmar is participation of Aung San Suu kyi in politics but actually the same military government holds sway even today. One could close the eyes and wish away reality. But even those blind in-sights cannot refrain from sensing the dominating presence of the world’s most populace, resource rich and influential China. Therefore, I hope that whichever Party comes to power in the next session, Bhutan will have progressive relationship with China. By this it does not necessarily mean that DPT has to return. After all, the 1st Democratic Government has been unable to push through the exchange of establishment of Embassies between Bhutan and Japan. Japan was ready yesterday but Bhutan hesitates even though we have diplomatic relation and Japan has been much economic help for decades. I personally think that Mao Khola Bridge and possibly other major funding from Japan await the exchange of Embassies of the two countries.  

Wishing everybody everyday politicking in this season of Primary and General Elections. Good luck and great speculations!

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