Saturday, March 21, 2015

Strangling the sovereign Dragon.

The headline news of 20th March,2015 which coincidentally also happened to be the  International Happiness Day was far from being happy for Bhutan. The Government of Bhutan, " has deferred the constructions of the 68.3 kms. Nganglam to Dewathang  highway ( NDH ) indefinitely, and aborted the 98 kms. Lhamoizingkha to Sarbang highway ". The old name for Lhamoizingkha is Kalikhola the most isolated Dungkhag in Southern Bhutan. The reason cited is, " Security ". The Big Question is, " Whose Security and how real ? "

The total length of the largely ADB soft loan funded  nationally vital  Southern Highway is 166.3kms which is the same length and of importance as the existing Thimphu to Phuentsholing Highway. For so many past years, Bhutan has been yearning like a desert for water for such a southern  highway life line. . And this  national dream goal had become a reality within this ongoing 11th 5 Year Plan. And then out of blue, lightening struck down the national vision of independent southern Bhutan road connectivity. The Cabinet of Bhutan showed its red face once again and this time the victim is national socio - economic and security priority, the Southern Bhutan Highway.

A national highway in Southern Bhutan from Samtse to Diafam would enhance the security of South Bhutan and bring about far greater socio-economic prosperity to the whole nation. For too long the communication within Bhutan had suffered because travel between different Dzongkhags in South Bhutan was possible only through the Indian lateral highway running through the Indian States of West Bengal and Assam. Whenever a strike occurred in West Bengal or Assam, Bhutan was adversely affected. Things stood still on the Bhutan side of the international border.

The Government's stated reason for shelving the construction of the Southern Highway was that now the Cabinet had to to be, "mindful of Externally Funded Project Component". What a Reason ! Almost every development project in Bhutan has been externally funded for the last 55 years of Bhutan's modern era since 1960. Only the Southern Highway Project is too sensitive security wise to be funded by ADB? Why and How ? If it was so, how come until 2nd of March,2015, the whole national political hierarchy was for the construction of the the Southern Highway. Till then the Bhutanese Governments were for the interest of the overall development and Security of the whole of Bhutan and in particular the citizens and Dzongkhags of South Bhutan.

On 1st March, 2015, the Secretary of External Affairs of India came marching into Bhutan and met the Bhutanese political hierarchy and on 2nd March,2015, the very next day of his visit, the Cabinet of Bhutanese Government issues orders to cancel the Southern Highway Projects.

The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement had to return the bidding documents and bid securities of construction firms who had participated in the Tender for the highway construction. The Tender evaluation had been completed. Could a Foreign Construction firm Japanese or Chinese have qualified for the highway construction project? It should have been possible for Bhutan to cite the sensitive northern border issue of India and award the contract for the highway project to an Indian construction firm. In fact I thought from the onset, it was decided that it would be solely a Bhutanese venture in so far as the actual construction was concerned to promote national capacity of private construction firms in Bhutan. So it cannot be the issue of specific  contractor for cancelling the highway project.

It had to do with India's anathema against Bhutan securing an independent communication network of road transportation within her southern border regions from extreme West to end of Eastern border in the South. A few months back, the unfortunate victim of this Cabinet was the secondary national highway of the Southern Bhutan centred in between Dagana Dzongkhag  and Lhamoizingkha Dungkhag.

The highway and the secondary highway  in the South would have  put an end to infiltrations from Indian side. These highways  would free Bhutan from a national hostage situation each time there is a strike in the Indian States of Assam and West Bengal. It would finally make possible for Bhutanese to travel safely and conveniently to different parts of their nation without using the security risk Indian lateral route. The highways would greatly enhance the moveability of Bhutanese Government Agencies during any crisis in South Bhutan.

The Southern Belt is the weakest link in sovereignty of the Bhutanese nation. Since 1950s, there have been two brinkmanship Uprisings in Southern Bhutan and one near catastrophic occupation by supposed to be various insurgent groups all well armed and trained forces of Indian origin. The Southern Highway is not just a national connectivity roadway. It is of strategic  importance to national sovereign stability and unity. It benefits directly not just Lhotsampas but all other Eastern and Western Bhutanese who have been resettled in the 4 regions along the southern belt. How could a sovereign nation accept the surrender of its  vital national interest by a Ruling  Political Party who seems obligated to India? India's concern is imaginary whilst Bhutan's needs are real and urgent.

The Amochu Hydro Project has been shelved and the Samtse Phuentsholing road construction has slowed to a snail pace and the Dagana Lhamoizingkha secondary highway construction has been sabotaged. And finally now the construction of the most vital southern Highway has been grounded to a full stop.

The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement is the parent Agency for national road connectivity in the Kingdom that is devoid of any railways or water transport facilities and air transport almost nil within the Country, The Minister of this Ministry has been reduced to declaring that fair weather ( seasonal ) farm road is adequate substitute for the national lifeline that southern highway represents.  It cannot be a genuine view of a first woman civil engineer of Bhutan. At her all important Cabinet berth , she had to be all geared up to make a positive difference to national development. But today the first woman civil engineer heading the largest development Ministry of Bhutan is mainly engaged in preventing or upsetting national development plans. A Minister needs no sympathy especially from a non entity citizen but I pity the professional engineer who made it to the pinnacle of engineering profession only to use her official powers to obstruct major national development projects.

The present Government began its 1st day of governance by lining up to receive the Indian Ambassador. By design or coincidence this incident made it appear that the Cabinet had shadow master. Maybe it was a bad Omen that foretold of grave days ahead. Bhutanese people by and large may not be too particular whether the power centre is with the the Palace or the Cabinet but gradually it seems to be shifting away from Bhutanese Leaders. Today I wonder how many of the elected 67 MPs of Bhutanese Parliament had not visited the Embassy of India in Thimphu. I do not mean to pay homage but for any assorted purposes or reasons.

It is the official responsibility of any foreign Embassy in any Country to protect and promote the national interests of the nation which it represents. Therefore it is understandable that Ambassadors of India to Bhutan of past or present era as well as visiting dignatories will do utmost to enhance Indian interest in Bhutan. By the same token, it is the sworn responsibility and duty of all Bhutanese national leaders to protect and enhance national interest of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people. The oath of national allegiance and duty is meaningful if only upheld. The mere words confirming the willingness to offer one's own blood to Pel Yeshey Goenpo in defence of Tsawa Sum does not amount to much if deed and intent are missing.

Today we surrender South Bhutan to the social,economic and military stranglehold of India. Tomorrow what happens to North Bhutan ? We are yet to conclude the northern boundary talks with China. How would China interpret the political changes  in Southern Bhutan? India may not favour South Bhutan Highway that stretches  from Sibsoo in Samtse Dzongkha to Diafam in SamdrupJongkhar Dzongkhag. The proposed highway could become a part of South Asia or even Asian Highway. It is possible that India would want to preserve its dominant influence over Bhutan and therefore does not kindly look upon this South Asia Economic Venture of which the Southern Highway is part of.   Is it possible that Indian Defence Forces suffers from a phobia of China to the extent of fearing that the proposed South Bhutan Highway could become the the Chinese Invasion route to North Eastern States of India? How could India a nation of over a billion people with a rapidly growing economic and political world power ever need to fear an invasion from China or any other Country? Why bully Bhutan to such a low degree of submission. I just wonder what unkind fate has doomed Bhutan to sacrifice the foundation of national umbilical cord the highway upon the alter of unwarranted security fear of India.

Bhutan and Appeasement:

The Appeasement Policy was pursued to the hilt by the Prime Minister Clement Attlee of Britain with Germany before 2nd World War. It failed miserably. Closer to home the Chogyel of Sikkim conceded almost everything of Sikkim to India in faithful pursuit of Appeasement Policy and in the end he got thrown out and Sikkim was annexed by India. On the other hand the King of Nepal defied India of Rajiv Gandhi. In later years, the King and whole of his immediate royal family members including the Crown Prince got killed in a mysterious palace plot. However, the national character of defiance that the Monarch projected did not die with the royal family. It survives today intact along with its sovereignty. A Sikkimese Khazi Lhendup  was the 1st Chief Minister of annexed Sikkim. Later he was expelled from the Indian State of Sikkim to spend long agonising years in Kalimpong under the State of West Bengal. So personally it does not pay to betray one's own Country. And the Policy of Appeasement is generally an assured failure. And then policy of defiance has grave personal and national risk. The options before the leaders of Kingdom of Bhutan is not only limited but also very unattractive. Meanwhile the tiny East Himalayan Kingdom jammed between the giant neighbours: China in the north and India in the South is being pushed towards a even more tight corner.

May Pelden Drukpai ChhoeChangs open a way forward to prevent the little dragon kingdom from being strangled to suffocation.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Final Reckoning Day at Jigmeling.

Today Sunday the 15th March, 2015 is  probably the grandest day in the history of  Jigmeling Police Training Institute at Sarbang Dzongkhag. His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen graced the Passing Out Parade of the 47th Batch of Police Trainees known as Gagsars.

The atmosphere this morning was tensely exciting. For the last several months the 200 Police Trainees, six Cadet Officers led by over tasked and over stretched Instructor Lopens and Dashos under the overall Command of Training Centre Director Lt. Colonel Pema Gyeltshen  assisted by Deputy Director Major Kinlay Chophel was preparing for this Day Of  Reckoning. It is a historic day in the annals of Royal Bhutan Police. For this reason even the Chief of Police Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel along with Deputy Chiefs of Police  had stationed themselves at Jigmeling Centre supervising the final preparation for this epic day.

The Day of Reckoning passed off with flying colours. Their Majesties the King and Queen were most pleased with the presentation of the Passing Out Parade. His Majesty was pleased to don the Commander-in- Chief uniform and address the six platoons of Gagsars led by six Officer Cadets. Before that their Majesties reviewed the Line of Platoons. It must have been a moment of heaven on earth for all the Trainee Policemen and Cadets as their Commander-in- Chief and the beautiful Queen walked the very ground upon which they themselves had for the past many months trained and slogged heart, soul and bodily to perfect the art of service to the Tsawa Sum. For today 's performance, Kudos to the Instructors especially to Major Sisir Chettri the overall in-charge of the various Drills.   And Kudos to the Trainees for excellent executions.

Today's Address of the Supreme Commander was brief and to the point. It was a lesson that not just the smart in drill formation Platoons but even the assembled parents would cherish and uphold. His Majesty called upon the fresh policemen and Cadet Officers to keep at their core of national service the essentials of nationhood:

1. The Security and Sovereignty of this tiny Kingdom in between the two giant nations of China in the north and India in the south.

2. The Peace and Unity of the Nation.

3,  The goals of  Self Reliance and Sustainability.

4.  The Rule of Law both legislated and naturally woven out of our social and cultural heritage of tradition and practice.

The Supreme Commander called upon his recruits to serve the Police Force with the zeal to strengthen and improve the service quality so that ultimately the people develop genuine confidence in the Royal Bhutan Police. The Supreme Commander coaxed the troops to serve with honesty and integrity and cited examples of most recent deeds of several servicemen who defied corruption by overcoming temptations in their line of duty.

His Majesty also recalled the establishment of Royal Bhutan Police by his own grand father King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1965 with a force of 550 Policemen and Officers drawn from Royal Bhutan Army and how it had grown under the stewardship of his father the 4th King and now under his own Kingship. Today RBP strength stands well over 3650. His Majesty expressed his happiness with the Royal Bhutan Police Force and the service of the Chief of Police Kipchu Namgyel .

Today the Gagsars were attested to assume the duty of Gagpas hereafter. Today 200 well trained and properly sensitised policemen join RBP. Its a proud day for them in particular but so many others especially the parents would be overwhelmed by today's experience. The Passing Out Parade is an Event that tells a different side of police life that the public in general are hardly aware of. If only we knew even a small percentage of the drills and grills the Gagsars undergo to graduate to qualified Policemen, maybe the man on the street would develop that all so important affinity towards the blue uniform that dedicate to preserve law so that society does not trample over each other.

I hope many Parents could attend the POP. At the end of the royal Address, His Majesty was most kind to convey royal  greetings to the Parents and others who had come to attend the Passing Out Ceremony. I am happy and deeply touched to be on the same Jigmeling parade ground on reckoning day with my youngest son Cadet Officer Sangey Dorji along with his five fellow Cadet Officers and the 200 Comrades for life Policemen. It was not possible to meet him today in person but that's O.K. They all had a Day to perform and celebrate. I believe that His Majesty was most pleased to Command for Jigmeling Police Training Centre to celebrate with a grand party. Well, Enjoy it ! All of you and the Nation deserve the celebration.

The Parade Ceremony was well attended. There were the full force of dedicated Royal Secretariat; the Chief of Operations Lt. General Batoo Tshering and other senior RBA Officers  and naturally almost all of the high command of Royal Bhutan Police; from the Civilian there were the Parliament Speaker, Finance and Communication Ministers, several Government Secretaries, Dasho Dzongdags and Dasho Drangpons of both Tsirang and Sarbang Dzongkhags along with other senior Officers. I thought that it was good for all the present to hear in person the Address of His Majesty. We all needed to be reminded from time to time of the dignity in serving humbly and the essence and importance of each individual  Bhutanese role in fulfilling the national goals. The royal words were spoken to the Passing Outs but addressed to all of us. A Leader always coaxing and guiding his people along the national path of coexistence and sustaining nationhood unity. That is how our People King is.

Palden Drukpa Gyalo !  Indeed, today at Jigmeling, it was Victory for Palden Drukpa.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

BJP on a India suicide path ?

BJP got massacred in Delhi Election as Modi donned several crore worth ( auction price ) republic day suit and civil rights turnabout power hungry politician Kiran Bedi made battle cries for BJP.

Now BJP targets ManMohan Singh through a Special CBI Court on a criminal conspiracy charge regarding coal allotment during UPA tenure.  If a true Mahatma Gandhian personality like former Indian Prime Minister ManMohan Singh is said to be personally involved in criminal conspiracy what hope is there for India as a Nation ?

Politics cannot get dirtier than this. It is appalling and common Indians have to rise up to stop this invasion of national dignity.

BJP is acting larger than India. BJP states that CBI must probe regardless of position or stature but this is not about position and stature. This is ManMohan Singh who is more than just 2 full term Prime Minister of India.  He is the the epitome of simple, honest and capable Indian. He is a respected economist with unquestionable integrity. He is not a politician fibre but a wholesome Indian national leader.

ManMohan Singh is different from Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi. He is not vicious nor power hungry politician. He is a man of peace and prosperity and consensus national builder. His priority is India and that must be how the world at large saw the person that honourable ManMohan Singh is at heart and in deed like the nuclear deal. BJP needs to restrain from toppling the mother ship whilst captaining it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Perplexing attitude of Parents

Last Saturday the 28thFeburary,2015, the Jigme Namgyel School Thimphu held its 1st Parents and Teachers Meeting of the year. Among many matters of orientation for parents , one was about safe drinking water for the students. The choice put to vote by raising hands was: Provide daily a bottle of boiled water from home or prefer the proposal of the school to buy one water filter for each class to be paid collectively by parents. Majority raised their hands favouring to pay for the water filters. That somehow seemed perplexing. Why was it so difficult for parents to fill a water bottle with boiled water each day along with the packed lunched ?

It seems that after going through the difficult process of securing admissions for their wards in the School, the parents did not wish to appear opposing the school proposal. The school has PP class to Class VIII. There are more than 1200 students and each class has around 40 students. This means 40 water bottles would have to be filled from a single water filter. The classrooms are congested with some students having to sit on the inside ledges of classroom windows.

I feel that even after buying the water filters, the parents will have to continue sending filled water bottles with the pack lunches. Parents of younger students in any case come to the school during lunch break to feed their wards.  Time and logistic just does not favour the water filter system as laudable as it may have intended to be.