Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Indo-Bhutan towards a more acceptable horizon?

One does wonder the status of Indo-Bhutan after the visit of the high level delegation. When India sends such a top level diplomat, it shows seriousness of further aggression or strengthening respectable equation in relationship. I pray that it is the latter.

I hope that Hon’ble diplomat from the family of India’s most distinguished career diplomats has correctly gauged the depth of the wounds and felt that it was worthy of his time and effort to begin a healing process. And I hope he agrees that in Bhutan’s sovereignty and genuine friendship of Bhutanese of all walks of life, lays the ultimate national interest and the security of India.

Bhutanese people are said to be like the hill people of India in nature. Indians living in the plains say the hill people are very gullible but they over look the other trait of the hill people which is being very sensitive and therefore prone to react in the most unpredictable manner. The over sight is understandable because being gullible usually refers to matters of commerce and not war. It can apply to the status of hydro projects in Bhutan funded through grants and loans from India. The grants, the loans plus some more are all taken back by Indian Corporations and manpower because Bhutan just does not have the technical expertise, the required skilled and unskilled manpower and everything needed for the hydro projects are imported from India including food. And in the end the electrical power that is produced is also trans-shipped to India at a price dictated by Indian Authorities.

 It takes India 5 years to complete a mega-hydro project in Bhutan. The same project cannot be done in a generation in India and costs multiplies of that incurred in Bhutan because of so many party politics, local politics, national politics, environmental politics, centre and state politics and all of such forces swimming in the wells of bottomless corruptions. Our main national resource is harnessed to service India and in return we do not even get a fair price for the sacrifice. Instead we get a sack of goodies called subsidies which is converted to weapons of threat or honeycomb bribes depending on political whims. The saying, “show them a smile and you can have their teeth” so appropriately describes the one side Indo-Bhutan relation.

Till date successive Indian governments never felt that Bhutan being a neighbour under their thumb warranted the attention of a Menon type of a personality who in preserving the long term interests of India would also by tradition of Menon family nature and quality, would carve a fair deal for Bhutan too. The Hon’ble Shivshankar Menon visited Bhutan in his capacity as Security Advisor to India; therefore India’s security would be his top priority. However, he has the proven caliber to make up his own mind and not cow tow an advance dictated official order. The wisdom of fair diplomacy runs in his family blood. And I hope that after the visit here, he will tell New Delhi that Indian northern border would be more secure if a less hostile China borders the Bhutanese Kingdom. It is absolutely necessary for China and Bhutan to sign the border agreement and establish diplomatic ties. And even if Bhutan receives economic assistance from China as a result of improved ties, India would always remain the number one preferred neighbour upon whom Bhutan’s dependence can never diminish. The Indo-Bhutan military tie cannot be affected and both China and India will have fewer reasons to question each other’s motives. On the other hand if India frightens Bhutanese and keeps bullying Bhutan, some day Bhutan will throw itself entirely into the Chinese arm. No Bhutanese would prefer it but at times even a fragile woman opts to jump out of the window than be raped continuously in her bedroom.

India can do what she likes with the present Bhutanese government and for this very reason it will do well to her image and Bhutan’s sovereignty if genuine consideration is shown.  The recent changes in the hierarchy of External Affairs of India could have taken place for various reasons but still Bhutanese may have a reason to hope for better prospects. However, the trust deficit will continue to prevail as long as the cloak and dagger Ambassador V.P. Haran is in Bhutan casting his long shadow over the Bhutanese Cabinet. Nothing is sacred to this Indian emissary planted in Bhutan. To illustrate my point let’s say that both Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Ambassador V.P. Haran agree that Bilateral Agreements signed between India and Bhutan are ‘untouchable’ unless both signatories agree to amend or term of Agreement expires.

However, the understanding of the term ‘untouchable’ would be differently understood and therefore differently applied. The Hon’ble Shivshankar Menon in line with the honourable ways of his fore fathers, I believe, would interpret the term ‘untouchable’ as something very sacred and a national commitment that must be honoured unless a state of war is declared between the two signatory nations. However, to Ambassador V.P. Haran the term ‘untouchable’ maybe understood as in caste which people from upper caste can trash anytime in line with the exigency of the situation. That was why he told the gullible Interim Advisor Dasho Karma Ura that the Chukha power rate negotiated by the King of Bhutan with Indian Prime Minister and the 10 year trade and commerce Agreement valid till 2016, are invalidated by the Government of India. To such an emissary, nothing is sacred. Therefore, Bhutan can only feel safe when the Ambassador is recalled or a change of heart or change of seat takes place in New Delhi.

As a result of recent combined Indo-Bhutan game of politics, a terrible price has been extracted from Bhutan in terms of its international status as a sovereign GNH nation and the dignity of the 1st democratic leader. The Kingdom will never be the same and the Indo-Bhutan status will keep vacillating unless career diplomats like Menons decide to exercise greater sensitivity to the aspiration of the common Bhutanese people.  Regardless of the prevailing forces of Indo-Bhutan politics that favour money for sovereignty, there are, I believe, quite a number of Bhutanese who prefer to have the dragon Throne rest on a Bhutanese rock even if barren than upon the rich sand dune that India appears to be offering to the King of Bhutan. Palden Drukpa Lha Gyalo!

Farewell Democratic Bhutan’s most prominent MP

If 10 days grace period starting from 31st July was a considered factor then the appropriate day of decision to accept or decline the resignation of JYT, would be 9th or 10th of August, 2013. However, I think it is the prerogative of the Speaker to choose the date of resignation acceptance since JYT had chosen the day to file resignation application. Let astrologers debate on the particular choice of ‘Sunday’ and ‘Wednesday’.

It was amusing if you choose to look at it positively but otherwise its intriguing on the darker side when the public is told that JYT cannot be ice-boxed-blue because a “lacuna exist in the National Assembly Act”. The National Assembly Act is fine. Just because the Act did not provide the legal tool to penalize JYT for resigning, it does not necessarily mean the Act needs to be amended.  

The former Prime Minister made a difficult, brave and necessary decision. After being publicly accused of subverting both the corner stone foreign policy of Bhutan and the prerogatives of the Throne, anything that MP JYT may say in the House of National Assembly or Parliament could be construed as anti-India, pro-China, anti-national or another spike against the Throne. Maybe as some opinioned, JYT chooses to be MP if he is the 1st MP or Prime Minister. But judging by what is visible to naked eyes and reasonable mind, he had no option only an alternative either resign or assume a mummified presence which may again fuel further controversies.  

As stated in my earlier blogs, PDP President, candidates and party workers executed a superior campaign and so interventions from within or without may have varied the numbers but PDP would still have secured the majority. Therefore, the victor must be acknowledged. And according to media report, the President of DPT tried to do just that on the election night but his several calls to the victor went unacknowledged. Maybe the perceived contempt and disdain of a conqueror instead of the usual grace of a democratic victor had flared the post election turmoil of varied emotions. All that needs to be now buried with the past so that the nation can have a rebirth of unity. We now have the 2nd phase of the Royal Government of Democratic Bhutan in place so the political environment should improve as months pass by.

In between the entire period of political happenings, the former Prime Minister struck two distinct cords of forward democracy path. He seems to have coaxed DPT Party to form a united Opposition Team under a unanimously elected new leadership to enable the democratic process march ahead unhindered. And then he tendered his own resignation as MP heeding the earlier call of the supporters to preserve their dignity. Considering the prevailing circumstances and against the backdrop of his party’s push and pull, he displayed a stroke of political ingenuity.  

I came across a very soul searched Dungsampa letter to JYT. The way it was narrated, it must have moistened the hearts of many well wishers. Before that I had glimpsed the BBS coverage of Mongar post election meet. To describe the scene of much tears and sorrow of the aged and the young as that of a nation in agony would be incorrect because it was only a DPT consolation meet. But it was a scene of Bhutanese of many walks of life in tears. All these illustrative outpouring of affection affirm that JYT if not now the number one MP still remains the number one private citizen to many Bhutanese. Maybe it is now the appropriate time to wish him the best hereafter.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Anonymity - a cloak for fear, shame or irresponsibility?

There are 2 characters purporting to be PDP supporters making online personal threats, entangling Dasho Ugyen Tsechup’s name for whatever reasons; spreading lies of all sorts but most recently insinuating that I was forced out of Bhutan Times and I have family management problem.

I exercise my freedom of expression and therefore I respect others freedom of expression. That’s why I do not react to comments especially criticism. I realize that some do not comprehend my articles and few simply display self agony. However, I feel, I owe it to my readers who may not even be all Bhutanese and even if Bhutanese, may not personally know me or my past professions and the state of my family. The readers have a right to know the truth about the man behind the articles. Therefore, I am providing the facts of my professions and my family.

Threats - I do not buy threats no matter who issues them. It’s not that I do not fear personal harm or possible undesirable consequences for my family. It’s simply a belief that once given birth, the die is cast as to what happens in this one life. It may be possible to delay, detour, hasten or temporally hide but end result is non-negotiable for a prince or pauper. However, when nameless characters purporting to be PDP sympathizers or die hard party-men recklessly keep issuing threats of physical harm, vengeance by ACC or PDP government, I think it only serves to give credence to DPT complains about voters having being threatened.

Professions- I remain ever grateful to the Royal Government and especially to His Majesty the 4th King for the most rewarding opportunities I received as a civil servant to serve my nation. Now regarding my professional services in the Public/Private Sectors, I was Managing Director of Singye Group of Companies then Secretary General of Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries and finally Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan Times.

 I never sought those posts. On each occasion, I was prevailed upon and earnestly requested to take up the responsibilities. By nature I put my heart and talent to any task I take up and succeed in doing what needs to be done. And after completing my task, I left those posts, always on my own terms and time of my choosing. I handed over the companies and institutions to new managements, inevitably in far better in shape than I ever found them when I took initial charge. It is not necessary to take my word for it. Anyone can counter check with employees, colleagues who worked with me in Singye Group, BCCI and Bhutan Times.

Why this repeated reference to Dasho Ugyen Tsechup? – If anyone is interested in the publicly aired differences between us, look up my blog www.wangchasangey.blogspot.com and go through http://wangchasangey.blogspot.com/2013_01_01_archive.html It’s a non-issue for me now and knowing Dasho I feel he too would have put it far behind. There is a difference in age and style but we share one quality. If there is a problem we confront it then and there and we do not carry forward such baggage. I wrote about Kazi Lhendup of Sikkim and this same PDP purported non- entity brings into the issue the respected name of Dorji families in Bhutan. I referred to the protocol disaster of the 2nd Cabinet of the Royal Government not PDP party members and this same nameless character says I am tarnishing PDP because Dasho Ugyen Tsechup is supposed to be a supporter of that party. Is the nameless character clueless or bears a grudge against Dasho and Dorji families that compels him to unnecessarily and out of blue entangle them with issues they have nothing to do with?

My supposed family management problem – I do not manage my family. I cherish and enjoy my life with my family. The central pillar of our Family is the 1st Mother of the family addressed as ‘Ayee’ and next comes the 2nd mother of the family addressed as ‘Aum’ followed by myself addressed by all as ‘Apa’. After that come the children addressed by all as Ashi, Acho, Pasa & Dawa, Chode & Om, Dorji & Tshokyee. Yes, the pairs were given birth either a day or a week (more or less) apart by the two mothers. At each child’s birth (at home), I was there. The babies always dropped into my palms. I cut the umbilical cords and tied the knots, and then bathe the new born. I am not a good cook so it is the mother not in labour who cooked. But every one of us are there assembled all over the bed of the mother in labour talking, joking nervously and shouts of joy and possibly victory when the new member greets us with a cry of  Aeegh! Aeegh!! Aeegh!!!

Between the 3 parents, we never left the children by themselves or unsupervised. The mothers breast fed the babies and we never missed a parents meeting when they were in school. The children never ate a meal alone, except for the school pack lunch. We had breakfast and dinner together. Regardless of work pressure, I never missed sharing my lunch break with the two mothers at our home. I was always dot on time for office, appointments or meetings and I shared my evenings with my family.

My deepest and greatest satisfaction in life is our success in raising our kids and their success in schools, colleges and their professions. Our eight children do us immense proud and now we rejoice in the fact that we have the opportunity to lavish time and care upon our grandchildren. In a way at this stage in life, it is a boon to have the time and opportunity to help to bring up the grandchildren in the way we actually wanted to raise our own kids but for the constraints of those early years.

God bestowed two great gifts upon me. The 1st was my Mum and Dad. I claim to be a good parent but when measured to parenting of my Mum and Dad, I know I fall far short. I never had to toil from dawn to dusk and then undertake journey into the night guided by the moonlight. The 2nd gift is my own happy family. Frankly when it comes to the warmth, the closeness and the happiness, none can compare with my family. And I just do not have any reason to envy or fear those richer in money or temporal powers.

In retrospection of my life, I would say that any day I would prefer to work from a revolving executive chair than be the plough man during paddy transplantations. But I did plough and do other manual farm works. We will always remember with gratitude those pairs of oxen and milking cows that nourished our family. In fact, everyone in the family from the youngest child upwards, there were always works at home or on the farm. Such mix of life occupations nurtured and enriched our family life.

And ultimately because of this simplicity and straight forwardness of life I led, I never found the necessity to be a fan or supporter or antagonist of any individual or party. I am just a much disciplined, happy Bhutanese who is most grateful to this Kingdom, this Sovereign Kingdom which provided everything for the sustenance of past ancestors, the happiness of the present generation and the hope of the future. And for Bhutan I will keep raising my thoughts and hoping for the best. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The after effects of Indian intervention in Bhutan Election

The direct intervention of India in the internal affairs of Bhutan seems to have breached an unwritten but accepted protocol of understanding between China and India. The unpublicized but accepted protocol seems to be, ‘Tibet is Chinese internal affair and Sikkim is India’s internal affair. And let the Kingdom of Bhutan exercise her sovereign choice’.

During Bhutan’s 2nd Interim Government Term, it seems the top Bhutanese leadership was brow beaten by India to 1). Disavow the national policy of GNH under the guise of which Bhutan managed to expand its diplomatic relations and solidify its sovereign position and 2). Reverse the ongoing Sino-Bhutan progressive relation.

My suspicion is that the Indian Ambassador V.P. Haran strategized the PDP General Election campaign and that the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) fund of Rs. 5 Billion grant that realizes the PDP campaign promises was a done deal before 13th July, 2013 the General Election Day.

On Monday the 29th July, 2013, the first working day of the new Bhutanese Government, the Prime Minister of Bhutan along with his whole Cabinet ended up officially receiving Indian Ambassador V.P. Haran to Gyalwang Tshokhang the Seat of Bhutan Government. I wonder what kind of official address the Ambassador made as he reviewed the composition of the Bhutanese Cabinet. The Bhutanese media is silent so probably there was no mutual discussion to make any declaration; possibly only one sided communication. Nowhere in the world is an Ambassador officially received by a full delegation of Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister let alone on its 1st official working day. This kind of national tragic event takes place only when a conquering General demands homage and surrender from a defeated and humiliated nation.  Such an act of sacrilege and betrayal of sovereignty must have had the Dharma Raja Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and the spirits of the three late Kings of Bhutan in total despair. I just can’t imagine what it must have been like to the two living Kings.

India cannot publicly or privately tell China to keep away from Bhutan but India has showed every and all distaste for progressive Sino-Bhutan ties. So Bhutan must be under immense Indian pressure to blunt any progressive overtures from China. And with Jigmi Yoezer Thinley bundled out to seclusion, India has her way. But it seems India was quite unprepared by Chinese reaction. It seems that the famed Indian diplomat corps now lives upon day to day instruction of their political bosses. Otherwise this would not have happened.

Today on 8th August, 2013, Indian Security Advisor accompanied by Indian Foreign Secretary is arriving in Thimphu and according to media reports; they will be holding meetings with Bhutanese leadership including His Majesty the King. I guess they will also meet His Majesty the 4th King, the Father of GNH philosophy which India and India influenced Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has rejected as being an “empty slogan” to quote Sanjay Kumar in ‘The Diplomat’.

Under Indian pressure, Bhutan has declared its hostility towards China and it won’t be long before China officially seeks a clarification from the Bhutanese Cabinet whose composition the Indian Ambassador V.P. Haran recently reviewed and probably approved. The visit of the heavy delegation from India could be another exercise of political and economic clout that India reigns supreme in Bhutan.

China, it seems, according to the major Indian Newspapers, has already conveyed, unofficially, her thoughts to Government of India. China seems to be very serious about the breach of the unwritten but accepted protocol and her seriousness can be gauged by the particular sentences to quote, “As a country located between China and India, Bhutan serves as a buffer and is of critical strategic importance to the Siliguri corridor, a narrow stretch of land (known as chicken’s neck) that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India. The corridor is considered vulnerable bottleneck for India’s national security. Delhi worries that China will send troops to the corridors if a China-India military clash breaks out”.

I accept that for the coming 5 years, the fate of Bhutan rest largely in the hands of the 2nd Government. I have nothing to say since the die has been cast. But as a Bhutanese subject, I beg to exercise my humble right to appeal for a national kidu to His Majesty the King. His Majesty has the constitutional responsibility and the hereditary obligation to ensure the sovereignty and the security of the Kingdom.

Your Majesty, the General Election of Bhutan saw how opportunistic an arrogant giant neighbour can be. And yet because of so many paramount reasons, we can never as of today prefer China to India.  India will have to remain our most associated neighbour. However, please be aware of tri-colour canopy that is in the process of replacing the yellow and orange over the Dragon Throne.

 I also feel that Jigmi Yoezer Thinley in words of Bhutanese proverb is a bird in the basket and a beef in the pot. He cannot be of any danger to national interests and for that matter no other Bhutanese Prime Ministers on their own can also pose any threat to national goal as long as the Throne remains upright and alert.  India’s antipathy to JYT is that he left the Indian leaders dumb founded by the way side as he gently but surely carved an international space for Bhutan under the canopy of GNH, a philosophy that illustrated the loving wish and goodness of a King for his people and nation. India no longer seems to portray itself as a genuine friend of Bhutan.

GNH cannot, on its own, be an omni-solution to Bhutan’s employment problems, essential supply needs and rupee shortages etc but if any unbiased visitor is to walk through the offices, urban homes and rural homes of Bhutan and India, then that visitor will comprehend the substance of happiness and relevance of GNH to both Bhutanese and world society.

Several decades back on an issue of allowing individual tourists to Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonpo Dawa Tsering told me that we have to be mindful of undesirable impacts of individual foreign tourists on the security of the Kingdom. I had approached the Hon’ble Foreign Minister regarding visa procedure after getting HRH approval to permit individual tourist visit. To allay Lyonpo’s concerns, I submitted that more than any Bhutanese, the Royal House would be concerned about the dangers to national security and Her Royal Highness the Representative of His Majesty the King did not feel that escorted individual foreign tourists under a trained Bhutanese tour guide would pose any such danger. His Excellency then accorded approval for individual tourist visa. My view of those days has not altered. All Bhutanese must take a leap of faith in the workings of our Kings and Deities because more than any Bhutanese, the Bhutanese Kings and Deities would have the foremost national interests and well being of the Kingdom.

I have expressed my unreserved views not for the Throne as such but mainly  for the fellow Bhutanese to whom I appeal for calm and absolute national interests not Political Party dividends and to people of India and Indian Media among whom there seems to exists due regards for the limited aspirations of a tiny neighbour and very sincere friend. A Country that has produced great and greater Kings successively would have, I believe, more JYTs in the making and India will have to adjust to this reality. Let Bhutan co-exist along your side with sovereign dignity and not under your thumb.  In India’s re-attempt to convert Bhutan into a Protectorate State (such an attempt was made during the young reign of the 4th King at the time of annexing Sikkim), there lies an unmistakable danger both for Bhutan and India. The 22 KMs Siliguri chicken-neck stretch of a land might turn into a blood path of Sino-India conflagration. Such scenario does not do any good to anybody especially to Bhutan, China and India. Do not force providence for providence at times can turn out to be wrathful.