Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bhutan for Bhutan.

Bhutanese who have come down the generations of Bhutanese blood and hereditary lines may not share the fear and  hate for China that Indians or even Tibetans especially those living outside would feel. And likewise,  hereditary Bhutanese may also,  sensitively and sentimentally, be more protective of Bhutanese sovereignty viz a viz Indian strong arm influence than the later date Bhutanese citizens. I feel inherent sentiment is kind of different from adopted or inspired dedication.

The new leadership in Nepal is denying India from carving a little Indian State for Nepalese citizens of Indian origins in  southern belt of Nepal. If Nepal leaders fail then South Nepal will gradually become part of Indian Union. I expect Bhutanese democratic  leaders will also resist any attempt by India to carve out southern Bhutan. Therefore, I watch the event being played out in Nepal with thumping heart because it can give an indication of the future of sovereignty of small nations.

Some might say why would a non- entity be so concerned and moreover what can a non- entity like me do. Nothing really !  I know that. But a Bhutanese can exercise at least the freedom of wishful thinking. And that is what I am doing except I say it a bit aloud.

If one thinks beyond sentiment and just blind love of being sovereign, maybe majority of common people may not need to be preoccupied with sovereignty. I wonder what the true blood line of Sikkimese living in Sikkim  or Tibetans in Tibet really feel about living under a different line of rulers or political leaders. Are they economically better off or do they feel less fear or more fear of the authorities ? Do they miss the old  sovereignty and the old system or are the majority of the common people in the two countries content with the changes that had evolved ?

The construction progress of Samtse to Phuentsholing road is so silent now. The Amochu hydro project has been shelved.  In 1960 Bhutan could not have constructed the Thimphu Phuentsholing highway with out generous assistance from India. And today in 2015, Bhutan had to shelve the construction of the much needed Southern Highway that was funded by Asian Development Bank for " security reasons ". Whose security is  Bhutan concerned about. Many believe that the proposed Highway could have further strengthened  the security of Bhutan. At least we could  monitor who is entering the forests of South Bhutan: ULFA BODO Militants or Indian Soldiers through a " South Bhutan Highway Patrol ".

Bhutan has come a long way in terms of economic and social  prosperity since 1907. In terms of Bhutanese national sovereignty,  what has been the tangible political progress since joining United Nations in 1971 ? In my humble mind, one giant step is the China Bhutan Border Treaty. And the other possibly even more important is the successful renegotiation of Indo Bhutan Treaty of 1949 by the Fourth King. A Treaty has value and validity when put in practice. Otherwise,  it is only as valuable as the paper that records it.

True respect and reverence for a leader lies in exercising national confidence and faith in the deed accomplished by a great leader.  This renegotiated Treaty was signed by the Bhutanese Fifth King and the President of India who was then the Minister of External Affairs of India. I did not know that Shri Pranab Mukherjee would become the President of India. Now that he is, this Treaty is even more significant because in a way, two Heads of Nations' signatures stand testimony to the commitments of India and Bhutan. There should not be ifs and buts in honouring the terms of the Treaty.  It was the Fourth King who renegotiated the 1949 Treaty with the Government of India. The King must have had an immediate reason and an end vision in so doing what he successfully undertook. The endeavour could not be for namesake. So why are we treating it like a namesake deed ?

I am no fan of Nepal. I hardly know the nation and her leaders. But unlike some sore throats in the Bhutanese and Indian  media, I do not see the differences between  Nepal and Bhutan  rather the political situation affinity which terrifies me. Nepal is suffering because the leaders are resisting the partition of Nepalese nation. And when a Bhutanese News Print known for voicing in advance Bhutanese Government views, takes delight in tormenting Nepal, it is disturbing. I pray that this time it is not the actual view of the Bhutanese Government.

I took great heart in the Bhutanese Prime Minister meeting the Nepalese Delegation in New York. It would not have anything to do with the Nepal economic situation but so what. It was a good gesture similar to His Majesty's instant heart felt deed at the time of Nepal earthquake. There is not much that Bhutan as a small nation can say or do in the Nepal India situation. The least any true Bhutanese could do is refrain from insulting the Deities of the Himalayas because just like Nepal, Bhutan, too,  is dependent on the good grace of the Deities.


  1. Our Prime Minister is so stupid and short sighted that he does not see long term impacts on Bhutan's sovereignty. Thus far our kings made Bhutan more and more sovereign but now the Prime Minister is giving away all the sovereignty we acquired. We cannot construct highway within our own territory. India gets to choose who should be Bhutan's Prime Minister. India chooses which international donors to accept for developmental works. Japanese cannot fund our Dzong constructions. India wouldn't like to see any embassy in Bhutan like Japanese embassy rejected by India. Chinese products are cheap and every country buys but Bhutan cannot buy any Chinese stuffs officially. It is ok if it is supplied by Indian firms. Indian Ambassador is more powerful than our own ministers. He travels across the country to take indirectly campaign for India. Almost every country in the South Asia has joined AIIB including India themselves but India doesn't want Bhutan to join the Development Bank. Bhutan is forbidden to make any additional diplomatic relations. Even our own development works of Five year plans will have to be reviewed by Indian government before approved.
    Are we going to remain like this forever? Actually our current government is surrendering other sovereign rights our kings acquired through their hardwork

  2. I have a great admiration for your audacity. I do! I also happen to share your arguments.
    The Articles “The Nepal Crisis and Four Lessons for Bhutan” of October 5 and “More Lessons from the India-Nepal Crisis” of October 31 of the TheBhutanese came quite shockingly hard-hitting for me. Is there is any takeaway lesson from these two articles? I do not think so. They are rather detrimental to our hallowed national interests. Those articles not only fostered a feeling that Bhutan needs to throw itself into an eternal siege to India’s geopolitical interests. Doing so would mean we are surrendering our sovereignty. Rather than being judgmental to Nepalese crisis, wouldn’t it be wise for Bhutan to show up its solidarity for the security of Bhutan too depends on the degree of solidarity it shows to other similarly fated neighbours? I pray that the articles have not provoked resentments in Nepal already which would be quite unfortunate. India is becoming increasingly unpredictable that leaves its small neighbours like ours worried. It must recast its Himalayan policy and lead south Asia in a sagacious manner befitting to a country of its caliber. Bhutan must hold on to the merits of being important to both China and India for which they can’t afford to derelict its interests. To the extent that they have muscle and we have principle, the larger a role we can establish for principle the better off we will be.
    I also pray that our mainstream media are mindful of the fact that Bhutan is a sovereign and independent nation that can enterprise its own political and economic spaces without undue influences from across the border.

  3. Bhutan needs to review its position by carefully following events in Nepal India relations. It is not easy for Bhutan to stand up against India's aggression like Nepalese are resisting.

  4. "The Bhutanese" newspaper has once again shown its indifference towards losing sovereignty. Tenzing Lamzang will be happiest if Bhutan loses sovereignty because he does not belong to this soil. His ancestors did not live in this land. He should never have been given Form 1 citizenship. Today he is one side but tomorrow he could go another side, whoever pays him well. Such person should be watched upon. One day this person will commit irreparable trouble for Bhutan. Since he came into the limelight, Bhutan has constantly been in chaos.

  5. It has almost become an accept 'truth' in the West that the Tibetans in China are oppressed. This narrative has been baked into the national discourse of China in the West that it is seldom challenged. There are all sorts of reason why this is the case, it has to do with the British colonial past in East and South Asia, cold war geopolitics and petrified ideological thinking and outright ignorance. But reality in China is very different. A study done by US, Sweden and Indian sociologist reveals that Tibetan Chinese in China actually has a stronger sense of Chinese national identities than their Han Chinese counterpart.

    1. haha..this claim is almost laughable! Is that why 130 plus ordinary Tibetans have self immolated (burned them selves to death) in protest?

    2. If you look at the world closely, oppressed people don't self-immolated or self-mutilated. This applies to Dalits in India (where on occasion Dalits were poured with gasoline and set on fire), slaves in the old US (where lynching is almost a spectator sports), South Africans in Apartheid South Africa, Kashmiris in Kashmir (where eighty thousands disappeared in the last 70 years only to show up in mass graves), Jews in Nazi Germany and Palestinians in occupied West Bank.

      So it is almost certain that the fact that there were a spate of Tibetans burning themselves to death a few years ago has nothing to do with so called oppression.

  6. In appreciation of your thoughtful blog, Wangcha Sangey, I would like to contribute these comments.

    When Narendra Modi touched down at Paro airport in June 2014, both India and Bhutan were quick to attribute special importance to the visit.

    According to the influential newspaper The Hindu, “The fact that the Prime Minister chose Bhutan as his first foreign destination assumes significance since China has lately intensified efforts to woo it and establish full-fledged diplomatic ties with Thimphu.” And for Bhutan’s government, the visit vindicated its election claim a year earlier that it would repair and cement ties with India that had been weakened by the previous government.

    But many Bhutanese saw a very different significance in Modi’s touch-down in Paro. Just as Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay prepared to present the ceremonial silk welcoming scarf to Mr Modi as he stepped off the plane, a sudden gust of wind whipped the scarf from Mr. Tobgay's hands and onto the tarmac. A few moments later, an honour guard captain quivered and shook violently as if possessed. Word quickly spread that Bhutan’s guardian deities had declared to Modi: “You are not welcome.”

    Bhutanese officials scrambled to persuade television stations not to screen those embarrassing moments, and indeed, the shots have been edited out of many film records. Others argue that such superstitious mumbo-jumbo about deities and ‘bad omens’ should not be taken seriously.

    But there is a more intelligent and profound significance to these ‘omens’ that is deeply rooted in justifiable fears that India’s growing stranglehold over Bhutan has shattered the sovereignty its 3rd and 4th Kings worked so hard to establish.

    Contrary to India’s fears, many intelligent Bhutanese are secretly delighted at China’s overtures as the best guarantee of Bhutan’s sovereignty. They are convinced that the moment normal relations are established with China and a Chinese embassy established in Thimphu, all prior border issues will be resolved in an instant. These people point to China’s expressed willingness to settle all such matters directly with Bhutan without “third party” (i.e. Indian) interference.

    Many envy Nepal’s close connection with both countries, China having this year overtaken India as the biggest foreign investor in Nepal. They even covet Nepal’s Chinese-built highways as far superior to the agonizingly slow pace and poor quality of India’s road building in Bhutan, especially when that aid is used as a brazen instrument for exercising India’s dominion over Bhutan.

    To cite just one example, work on Bhutan’s Southern Highway was recently aborted as a direct result of Indian pressure designed to maintain Bhutan’s dependence on India. The intended highway, funded by the Asian Development Bank, was vital to Bhutan’s security, independence, and economy, since it would link east and west Bhutan’s southern regions without reliance on India’s insecure and strike-prone roads.

    But even that interference pales by comparison with India’s direct meddling in Bhutan’s internal affairs. It is well known that Bhutan’s daily newspaper, Kuensel, is regularly censored before going to press by two authorities – the Palace and the Indian Embassy. Nor has India hesitated to intervene directly in Bhutan’s own elections – thereby seriously threatening and undermining its democracy as well as its autonomy.

    For all the shortcomings of Bhutan’s former Prime Minister, including his nepotism, arrogance, and lack of skill relating to the young king, there is one quality that Bhutanese will always appreciate – his deep dedication to the nation’s sovereignty. Though often mocked and criticized, Bhutan’s expensive effort to secure a Security Council seat, its widening diplomatic relations, and its idealistic Gross National Happiness (GNH) policy all strengthened Bhutan’s sovereignty by elevating its international standing and recognition, and the world’s stake in Bhutan’s independent existence.


    And yet that independent spirit is ultimately the sole reason Jigmi Y. Thinley was thrown out of office in July 2013 with the blatant manipulation of the Government of India that was determined to curb Bhutan’s pretensions.

    Indeed, many intellectuals in Bhutan now hold the former Prime Minister himself responsible for squandering his precious opportunity to strengthen the country’s sovereignty through his failure to be more respectful and obedient towards the young Fifth King. It may be Jigmi Y. Thinley’s own close relations with the Fourth King, or the fact that he was already a high official while the new young king was just an infant that contributed to his lack of humility.

    That fatal flaw, some say, is the primary reason that anything associated with the former Prime Minister, including GNH, is now openly dismissed, and that Bhutan has lost its freedom and become a vassal state of India. Sadly, the young king’s insecurities have mushroomed in these circumstances, which is exactly what India wants and plays right into India’s hands. To use a traditional expression, such weakness is like a salmon jumping into the bear’s mouth!

    So pervasive has India’s interference become that it has produced the most insidious form of self-censorship in Bhutan, whose officials, journalists, and leading citizens have well learned what they dare not say for fear of offending India. . In the past two years, leading media editors have been forced to resign on suspicion of being too sympathetic to the former government.

    Government officials now go to such extremes to ensure India will not be upset by anything they say or do that their behaviour verges on self-imposed paranoia. Whatever happens, India now has to be invited; India has to be informed; India needs to be in the loop. Indian officials must be thoroughly enjoying this new servitude and attention.

    Perhaps the most poignant case of self-censorship for fear of offending India is Bhutan’s patent silence and inability to make its case internationally on the most burning criticism levelled against the country abroad – namely its treatment of its Nepalese-speaking people, many of whom left the country as refugees in the early 1990s.

    It was, after all, Nepalese unrest in Sikkim and the Indian Army’s occupation of Gangtok (the capital city) in 1975 that led to India’s subsequent annexation of Sikkim, the abolition of the monarchy, and the decline of Sikkim’s culture and language (Nepali today being Sikkim’s dominant language). Because it would upset India, no Bhutanese official today dare say that it was Bhutan’s fear of following Sikkim’s fate and losing its independence that prompted its paranoia in response to large-scale Nepalese immigration and to the anti-government Nepalese protests of the 1980s.

  8. CONTINUED (last post):

    It is conventionally acceptable for officials, journalists, and citizens to worry about China’s designs and its poor record in Tibet and on human rights. But in Bhutan’s case, as the examples above show, India’s creeping domination of Bhutan and its increasing usurpation of Bhutan’s sovereign rights are a far greater cause for concern.

    Defenders of Bhutan’s “unique and special relationship with India” are quick to point to India’s funding of Bhutan’s Five-Year Plans and its supposedly generous financing of 70% of Bhutan’s foreign aid. But, rather than grovelling with gratitude as Bhutan’s leaders now do, they should insist that India pay 20 times more for its increasing control and dominion over the country, for its flagrant interference in Bhutan’s internal affairs and electoral processes, and for the autonomy Bhutan has sacrificed as a result.

    That Bhutan’s elites are in such close cahoots with India in eroding (some would say decimating) Bhutan’s precious sovereignty is deeply troubling. Even from a purely economic perspective, there is no justification for selling the country to India, as is now happening, when ordinary Bhutanese could benefit far more from Chinese investment in better roads, power, and other infrastructure development than India will ever deliver.

    There is a strong tinge of hypocrisy in India’s unremitting control and domination of Bhutan, and in Bhutan’s passive acquiescence in the incessant restrictions imposed on it. Thus, Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to China in May this year produced more than US $22 billion in trade and economic agreements along with twelve cooperation deals in various fields, and smiling handshakes with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yet India was infuriated by a simple conversation and handshake (and no deals) between the Bhutanese and Chinese leaders on the sidelines of the Rio Earth Summit in 2012.

    Indeed, it is a sad irony that India’s own states have more freedom to initiate investment, trade, and cultural relations with other countries than supposedly sovereign Bhutan, which remains hobbled by continuing Indian restrictions and interference. Long before he was Prime Minister, Mr. Modi made several visits to China as Gujarat Chief Minister, a right forbidden to Bhutan’s leaders, making Gujarat one of the biggest destinations for Chinese investment in India.
    India is often praised as the world’s largest democracy, but its apparent freedoms are only for its own people, while the world remains ignorant of India’s continued relentless denial of basic freedoms to its ‘best friend’ – neighbouring Bhutan. But then, India is not the only country that champions democracy at home while denying freedom abroad.

    Fortunately, through no initiative of its own, Bhutan has just been given one last chance to create a connection with China that India can’t prevent, as it has prevented trade, investment, cultural and other exchanges to date. To India’s certain chagrin, Bhutan and China were drawn to play each other in the Asian qualifying games for the World Cup – the first time in history the two teams have met. While Bhutan lost 6-0 to China in Thimphu, many Bhutanese intellectuals saw the game as a landmark last gasp of hope that will get another boost when the Bhutanese team goes to Beijing for the return game.

    In fact, there is likely no better way for Bhutan to restore at least a measure of its sovereignty than by judiciously balancing its relations with its two giant neighbours, and by having friendly relations with both on the basis of full respect for its own independence, culture, and heritage. It is time not only to confront India’s tightening stranglehold over Bhutan but also to hold Bhutan’s elites accountable for their failures and to demand they act in their own country’s sovereign interests.

  9. I am from Europe and have watched and admired you country from afar. In Europe we have experience with all kinds of political systems. So I was worried when "democracy" was introduced to Bhutan. I believe UN pressured Bhutan to adopt this system and it was previous King´s mistake to allow it.

    Here is why. When I say "democracy" I mean a mock democracy - a parliamentary democracy. Why is it a mock democracy? Because in this kind of system citizens have very little influence over the matters, so it is not really democracy - the rule of the people, but a mock democracy. Why do citizens have very little influence? Because they elect a proxy to make decisions in their name, but this proxy - the member of parliament bears no personal responsibility towards his electorate and can and will decide according to his own interest.

    You could say, that still people can decide to vote for somebody else the next term. But there is another problem. It is not the electors who put forth the candidates for the elections, but the members of political party, who select the candidates from among their ranks. So again the electors have a very little influence on who will be their proxy. The true name of this system is not a democracy - the rule of the people as politicians try to have us believe, it is a partocracy - the rule of the political parties.

    Furthermore this partocratic system brings about corruption. This is because a small group of people with personal interests decide on the behalf of the whole nation to whom they hold little to no responsibility. So it is easy to bribe such a politician to make a choice in favor of this or that despite of the decision having a negative impact on the politician´s electors. And this is what both India and China will seek to do. They will play Bhutanese parliament and government as their own puppets.

    Instead Bhutan should have a real democracy either making decisions by a popular vote - the referendum or by setting up a regional councils made up of all local citizens that would make a decision on regional level and would present this decision as their collective vote on the matter, these regional votes would then decide how to proceed. In such case only Bhutanese citizens could be blamed or praised for the decisions made.

    I wish all goes well for you country and good decisions are made.