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.

37 comments:

  1. very bold and good article...I am regular follower of your article.

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  2. Very bold but very truthful. You have hit the right chord. But unfortunately the policy makers and the government are oblivious to the harsh realities that you have just painstakingly brought to public notice. It is a sad period of our national life. Let us hope your selfless efforts will someday wake up the people from their deep slumber!!

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  3. A well analysed article..something that our mainstream media does not or would not report.

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  4. Very true....i hope PM n other cabinet members will read your article!!!

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  5. It is quite clear we have flung ourselves in a whrilpool and now how do we get out of it!!!

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  6. only people like Jigme Y Thinley can rescue Bhutan from strangulation. But our only hope was virtually murdered.

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    1. Why we have to wait for JYT to rescue us? Why can't we be like JYT?

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    2. We bhutanese has got the habit of waiting for someone to rescue us.

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  7. This kind of article should be written more often for the benefit of the gullible westerners (and ultimately for the benefit of Bhutan itself) who often assume Bhutan's threat is from China not India. Here is an example:

    http://www.timeout.com.hk/books/features/45078/boning-up-on-bhutan.html

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  8. We have flung ourselves into a quagmire, the harder we try to come out of it, the harder it becomes. Even if they read thousand times it is hard to imagine that they could reverse the situation. It is a moment for us to reflect on the past and see if there are some glimmer of hope for us to save our country from further suffering. We need more than luck and mere lip service and high rhetorics.

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  9. Shame on our leaders for giving into unreasonable Indian government's demand when it was clear that the Bhutanese national interest is compromised.

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    1. If ADB funded road construction is a security threat (percieved or real!!) then the GREF should take up the project so that Bhutan's socio economic development work is not disrupted. Policy makers may perhaps like to give a serious thought to this.

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  10. As one of the emerging economic powerhouse of the world, India should play much responsible and exemplary role to help this sub-region to prosper. It is being very naive on the part of Indian government to treat tiny neighbors like Nepal and Bhutan as a its rivals. It is always in our interest to see India grows and prospers so that we can also benefit from its spill over effects.

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    1. you have hit the high notes of the principle of coexistence!!

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  11. oh what has happened to Pelden Drupi gyalkkhap? Indian govt is bullying Bhutan. Whats worst, our national leaders appear to be a partners to the bully.

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  12. Just wondering what our mainstream media is doing? they don't even talk abt it other than just reporting it is cancelled...pls watch NDTV, CNN, BBC....Read times, washington post etc..see how much analysis they r doing....here, other than few ppl grumbling in the bars, literally there is no debate, discussion, analysis on national issues like this...is it due to FEAR or sheer Laziness??? Media should lead such important debates....where is our so called investigative journalists? analysists...are they now hand in glove with our naive government?? Most importantly, what is opposition doing???? unlike past, this time we have four politcal parties to raise this issue...what is going on????

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  13. Greatness of a nation lies NOT in trying to compete with its powerless and micro small neighbour or bullying its people but in helping the neighbour to rise up and prosper as much as possible.

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  14. This government is in the process of creation of the 8th north east state of India any time soon.

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  15. Tshering Tobgay acts like a Chief Minister of an Indian state more than a Prime Minister of Bhutan. History repeats, Sikkim is an example.

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    1. Even for States, they ve independence in implementing development programs!!! i wonder even we ve status of State!!!

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    2. Shree Tshering Tobgay ji, Chief Minister of the Indian State of Bhutan.

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  16. Just to apologise to an Anonymous who made a comment on 26thMarch which during moderation got deleted instead of publishing. The in between space separating publish and delete signs are quite narrow. If the Anonymous could resend the comment again for publishing. Thank you.

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  17. I feel sorry for my fellow Bhutanese who elected (or was the party elected??). Now we all know that the party's duty is to protect the interests of its masters in New Delhi, they dont care about Bhutan.

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  18. I feel sorry for my fellow Bhutanese who elected (or was the party elected??). Now we all know that the party's duty is to protect the interests of its masters in New Delhi, they dont care about Bhutan.

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  19. Koencho soom, protect us from this fool and madman especially when these qualities are endowed in one man.

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    1. Dear Bhutanese,
      No Koencho soom will protect you. No God will protect you. No outsider will protect you. You all have to protect yourself. You all have to protect your country. Bhutanese should not be complacent.

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    2. It is the collective responsibilty of all Bhutanese people. In the past we have been hearing too often service to "tsa wa sum" in the lips of people. Now is the time to display it, the true feelings by deeds and not lip service. Days of complacency are gone with the wind. The stark and naked realities are staring at us with piercing eyes.

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  20. Yesterday 31 March 2015 was the deadline for countries to apply for founding member status in the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). And as of yesterday Chinese media reported that 42 countries have applied for founding member status. When I looked at the list, all the countries in South and South East Asia (except Bhutan) have become founding members. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an international financial institution proposed by the government of China. The purpose of the multilateral development bank is to provide finance to infrastructure projects in the Asia region. AIIB has the potential to be a rival for the IMF and the World Bank which is dominated by the United States. Therefore, Washington fears that China will henceforth replace USA as the most dominant power in the region and gradually in the world. So Washington has been pressurizing its allies not to join the AIIB. But Washington was taken by surprise when recently UK which is the closest ally of USA announced its decision to join the AIIB. This was followed by France, Germany, Italy and many other European countries.
    The benefits of becoming a founding member of AIIB are enormous. But as a concerned citizen, I was wondering why Bhutan did not apply to be a founding member of such an important financial institution? Is it due to sheer ignorance of this government or is it that masters in New Delhi instructed our government not to join AIIB.
    Therefore, I would like to request Mr. Wangcha Sangay to share his thoughts on this important issue.

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  21. Recently I was watching a forum talk on AIIB the Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank led by China. Then 40 nations had applied including United Kingdom and other European Countries. The experts from major corporative bodies of the world were quite frank in their views. It seems that AIIB is looked upon to be more attuned with economic changes and needs of the present day than IMF and World Bank. India would definitely be one of the founding members just as it is a member of BRICS. India would need the financial impetus provided under AIIB for it developing economy. However, India would not favour Bhutan to be part of such an international organisation because the impact on development needs of Bhutan would be beyond the control of Indian policy towards Bhutan. It would defeat the hegemonistic policy of an officially applauded most friendly neighbour of Bhutan.

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    1. Indian would not allow us to join important institution coz we r not treated like a neighbor but rather like a "Kanchi"...the status that our gov accepts proudly!!!

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    2. But our main stream media is so silent on such important national issues. I suspect its because they (presstitute) must have been asked to ''shut up'' or ''shut down''. So much for the freedom of media in Bhutan.

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    3. main stream media is busy reporting on petty crimes and accidents, etc. they have no time for reporting on such serious national issues or rampant corruptions all around us---shame on them!!

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    4. Life is full of paradoxes!!

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    5. what are those paradoxes you mentioned. Please be more specifics so that the readers can add more value to the blogger's painstakingly researched topic?

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  22. ndia removes our top beurocrats the three secretaries.
    India doesnt allow us to build roads in our own land.
    India doesn't allow us to build relationships with any country we want.
    India doesn't allow us to invite any other donors in most area.
    India wants to bully us and control us in every ways.
    India controls our top leaderships. That is why they directly command our top leadership and then the command comes down to the concerned agencies as though it is our own government mind change.
    I am not surprised though because that is why India does and that is why No Neighbor of India likes India.
    But I am sad our own Bhutanese Government is selling our sovereinity to India.
    I am sad that Bhutanese are not standing up to fight against the Government who is selling our country to India.
    Bhutanese can't afford to be complacent any more.
    Bhutanese should not hesitate to stand up and go the streets and protest against this government if need be. It is better safe than sorry.

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  23. Bravo sir! Only you have the courage to tell it like it is.

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