Friday, July 5, 2013

Are Bhutanese not ready or over-ready for Democracy?

PDP and Supporters- The President of PDP is spearheading an election campaign to push Bhutan deeper into the political fold of India.

1. PDP is adamant that Bhutan’s sovereignty excludes any foreign policy that is not approved by India-such as the meeting between Bhutanese Prime Minister and Chinese Premier at Rio de Janeiro last year.

2. PDP declares that if Bhutan does not appease India in matters of its foreign policy then India will not provide fund for 5 years plans (citing 11th 5 Year Plan fund status) and will withdraw subsidy grant (citing increase in cooking gas price).

The fact is no donor countries including India have made firm commitment for 11th 5 Year Plan as yet because we do not have an elected government in place and moreover we do not as yet have a finalized 11th 5 Year Plan. India will provide assistance to Bhutan no matter which Party governs Bhutan. Indo-Bhutan friendship and co-operation is not based on Jigmi Yoezer Thinley or Tshering Tobgay. It has been developed by the Gandhi and Wangchuck leaderships and the friendship is founded on geo-political facts and mutual respect necessities.

The withdrawal of subsidy on gas could have been triggered by economic changes taking place in India. However, the gas price for the common people of India has not been raised although there is a quota limit for Indian families. Therefore, I feel that the government of India will consider positively the request made by the Chief Advisor of Bhutan’s Interim Government to the External Affairs of India. The Prime Minister of India knows that the Chief Advisor represents the King of Bhutan and India in the past has never spurned a reasonable and determined request of the Kings of Bhutan.

DPT and Supporters – on the other hand the President of DPT is reported to have returned to Thimphu with other senior leaders to review seriously the PDP accusation of DPT supposedly having strained relations between Bhutan and India and come up with a Party decision that would be in the interest of the Kings, the Country and the People. Some may view this as a political blackmail. I view it as an over-reaction that could further undermine democratic process. And DPT which was installed as the 1st ruling party by a historic over-whelming majority of Bhutanese voters does not have any moral right to topple democratic hopes of the voters. DPT must continue participation in the election process even if it is of the belief that the process is flawed and prejudiced against it.

It is also necessary to hope that PDP will refrain from being totally India hawkers and thereby compromising the legitimate sovereign right of Bhutan and Bhutanese citizens. The 4th King invested monumental efforts to re-negotiate the 1949 Indo-Bhutan Treaty in order for Bhutan to gain legitimate sovereignty in its foreign affairs. And the 5th King as Trongsa Penlop signed the re-negotiated Treaty on behalf of Bhutan and this I believe, is a historic gesture of Wangchuck dynasty’s commitment to Bhutan’s sovereignty in both external and internal affairs. The Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley’s friendly overture to China is in line with the Kings of Bhutan’s respect for China’s might and its impact to Bhutan’s sovereignty as well as adhering to the existing Sino-Bhutan Border Treaty that emphasizes on mutual respect and friendship between China and Bhutan.

If there is any perceived difference in the King’s way and the Prime Minister’s way regarding Sino-Bhutan relations, it must be pace and timing. The King of Bhutan has 32 years more (till the age of 65 years) to make his foot prints in history whilst the Prime Minister had only 5 years and if he gets a final 2nd term, then 10 years. So it’s time factor not fundamental difference.

I have likened PDP’s headlong campaign to reduce Bhutan to a “Protective State” of India to that of Kazi Lhendup Dorjee’s role (to quote the Prime Minister of India) “Shri Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa played a historic role as the architect of Sikkim’s accession to the Indian Union”.

Bhutan is a sovereign state. Therefore, no Bhutanese Political Party should be insisting that Bhutanese political leadership must remain a slave to New Delhi’s command.  Tshering Tobgay may believe that the Bhutanese Prime Minister should have sought appointment with Chinese Premier through the Office of the Prime Minister of India. However, even though he has been Opposition Leader for 5 years, Tshering Tobgay has no experience in national governance nor does he possess the slightest trait of the art of silent politics mastered by the Kings of Bhutan especially in the field of foreign affairs. Therefore, his opinion may very much be a very narrow personal politics which unfortunately may harm Bhutan’s status as a sovereign nation and a friendly neighbour to both India and China.

 The 1st democratic Prime Minister of Bhutan is being constantly and publicly accused of sabotaging the Indo-Bhutan friendship which had been carefully nurtured over so many years by the Kings of Bhutan. He is also accused of attempting to usurp the prerogatives of His Majesty the King. Such accusations if proved to be true, tantamount to acts of treason against Bhutan and the Institution of Monarchy. And if not true then the accuser is guilty of similar act of treason. His Majesty the King is the constitutional guardian of national peace and stability and therefore must act to guard the people and the kingdom from acts of treason.

The fact that His Majesty the King has made no public comment till now can never be construed that royal thoughts lies this way or that way. Both the political parties are of Bhutanese origin and the members are subjects of His Majesty the King. Somewhere down the line, it is hoped that a statesmanship is revealed to steer the young democracy to rightful path. As important as foreign relation is, it would be a grave mistake for Bhutan to adopt relation with China or India as the main crux of the General Election of Bhutan. If we tempt our giant neighbours to intervene in our election process, our democracy would be our national doom.  

In expressing my thoughts aloud in public, do not assume that I am fearless. I always have deep fears but I try to overcome such haunting depressions in my sincere belief that facts may awaken those that have the authority to save Bhutan and we the common Bhutanese. The rich and the elites will do O.K whether as subjects of King of Bhutan or as citizens of Indian President.

Please do not assume I do not like Tshering Tobgay. I am a senior Haap and by the virtue of my origin I cannot dislike a fellow Haap. Please do not assume I blindly support JYT’s China Policy. Whilst Jigmi Y Thinley was in college, I was learning the realities of Sino-Bhutan-Indo relations from His Majesty the 3rd King of Bhutan. I am also a royalist because like many other Bhutanese I too understand the gravitational role that the Wangchuck Dynasty upholds for the stability and security of Bhutan. 


  1. Sir,since Bhutan's sovereignty and custody was in safe hands of our kings, the necessity of the subject of politics altogether was not perceived, but unfolded like a flash-flood and now taking root like a massive scam. Neighboring giants could intervene welding unfavorable global propaganda. This is what Bhutanese politicians should see.
    As for my personal view, there is no requirement of such stampede into Bhutanese legislative. Corruption is marginal; social bound is healthy; opportunities are panty for the deserving; work stress is low; dowries do not exist; Greed and wealth has not given peace of mind to any one as per GNH.

    Senior citizens should inculcate similar views. I appreciate your passion and far-sightedness- TP Toffy

  2. very good article. But would have been better if it is not inclined towards DPT...


  3. Well articulated. However given your long experience, I am surprised that you missed quite a lot of serious issues in your arguments.
    1. That DPT govt of last 5 years has strained Indo Bhutan relations cannot be refuted. Establishing foreign relations with 23 something countries, meeting the Chinese premier, questionable cost escalation of the hydro-power plants, Chinese buses etc. Yes, we are independent and free to do all these things, but we must be mindful of geopolitical realities and the trust that we have with India. Will these not create suspicion and compromise the trust built over hundred years?

    2. True, Tshering Tobgay does not have the experience, but with all the experience of the DPT Ministers, should they not have thought about the consequences of their actions?

    3. The removal of subsidies has nothing to do with the economy of India or the increase in strength of the dollar. If that was so, the cost would have increased by few Nu or to the most 100 Nu. Why remove subsidies? This needs deeper analysis.

    4. I don't think we are compromising our independence by confiding in India. We have done that for 100 of years, and in my humble opinion (with no experience) we should continue to do that. Are you saying that we were not independent in the past, under the treaty of Sinchula? By renegotiating the treaty, we should not compromise development and benefits for our people, which India has been giving generously.

    5 Relations with China is also required and is only a matter of time. That too is a reality. But we should tread slowly, not jump the fence just because we are a democracy now. Friendly relations with all neighbors is a must for us.

    Not debating, but expressing my worries. Let us dig deeper and analyse carefully because at the end of the day, Bhutan should come out stronger and the people should benefit.

    1. 1. That DPT govt of last 5 years has strained Indo Bhutan relations cannot be refuted. Establishing foreign relations with 23 something countries, meeting the Chinese premier, questionable cost escalation of the hydro-power plants, Chinese buses etc. Yes, we are independent and free to do all these things, but we must be mindful of geopolitical realities and the trust that we have with India. Will these not create suspicion and compromise the trust built over hundred years?

      If one handshake with the Chinese Premier on the sidelines of the Rio Climate Summit is enough to ruffle New Delhi's feathers, I think we would be far better off without India's subsidies. What did New Delhi see as a threat in such a innocent meeting. Similarly, what was New Delhi's reason for giving us full autonomy to pursue our own foreign policies, wasn't the green signal for such a move given by India themselves when they amended the 1949 treaty sometime in 2008. As it is Bhutan is India's only friend in the SAARC Region and I can see why this is so. They seem to be playing dirty politics all the time.

  4. great job keep it up

  5. Wangtsha Sangay,

    Reading your article is like reading a History. Well articulated and i certain areas is narrow. It clearly states that you have soft corner towards DPT even though you tried to be fair in informing the public.

    1. Having relation with China will be advantage for Bhutan as both share the boarder lines in western Bhutan but having a Big business deal within a short span of time is a big concern for the Bhutanese People.

    2.We don't have to appease India but consultation is must being the Parent donor in every need and after all giving priority to India while having relation ship with other countries is very Important as India has been and will be helping Bhutan as and when we require their assistance.

    3. We agree that withdrawal of LGG and kerosene Subsidy could be due to some economic problem in India but we must analyse
    our self why they have stopped with immediate effect with out any advance information to our Government and people.

    4. Indo-Bhutan Friend ship has no guarantee even though it was established by Wangchuk Dynasty and Ghandi. As now both the Country is being governed by the elected leaders so on this matter it will be good for Bhutanese Leaders who ever gets elected to be careful in such matters.

    For Example,If you have a Good Business Partner in India during you time and after your withdrawal from your business who ever represents you have no capacity to handle you Partner in a way you use to do there is high chance of loosing your Business.

  6. Whether its good or bad for us, India withdrew the LPG and other subsidies not because of economic conditions in India, but to convey a message. As already been said by others, the subsidies they give us is very minuscule(not even 1%) when compared to the subsidies they give to their own people, and their own people still enjoy the subsidies as of right now.

    Also the timing of the withdrawal of subsidies points to the fact that India is sending us a message. Now, whether that is good or bad is another thing, but lets not lie to ourselves that the withdrawal of subsidies is due to reasons other than political.

    I agree with your view that we as a sovereign nation should not be held at ransom by India. At the same time, our ex PM should have at least consulted with India and sought their views before meeting the Chinese premier. The way things happened, JYT meeting the Chinese counterpart came as a surprise to India. When most of the nation's development works are being funded by India, it's only fair that we have the courtesy to at least inform them about meeting the head of state of a country, India is very sensitive about.

    Regarding Tshering Tobgay's inexperience in national governance, JYT had all experience in him to take our country forward, yet, what has he left us after 5 years? It could be his pure bad luck or pure bad governance, that our country had to go through crisis after crisis in the 5 years that DPT led our nation. Even when coming to politics, he has managed to shake the very foundation of the Indo-Bhutan friendship going by the recent events.



  8. I think PDP has sold out Bhutan to India, Jai Hind. The worry is that our Bigger brother to the north, China will make there move, that is a given, the only question is when! I hope the PDP government will be ready for any such eventuality.