The man with the GNH countenance has passed away this week. Dasho was already a red scarf officer by the time I met him. He was the Director of Agriculture. There was another red scarf officer Dasho ( Doctor) Yonten who was the Director of Health. Both hugely built and both such mild mannered gentlemen. You get the impression that they never faced problems in life. I guess some are born to be content and provide comfort to others. People like them added prestige to the red scarf and sword that adorn their position and symbolised their dedication to their responsibility and profession.
I remember two things about Dasho Pema Wangchuk. His smile and his doma chechu ( I am not sure whether he gave up doma in later years). And with the passing years his white hair.
His is a rare personality and even rarer are the honours he received from three successive Monarchs. The 3rd King granted him the red scarf, the 4th King entrusted upon him the most crucial and heaviest of task of keeping the international boundaries of Bhutan as it was handed down to us by the great forefathers. It is no easy task when the international boundaries of the Kingdom of Bhutan adjoins that of China and India. And the 5th Monarch bestowed upon him the ' Son of Bhutan ' medal.
I do not know what the Indians called him. Someone said the Chinese referred to him as the Laughing Buddha. Such is his nature. Inexhaustibly patient, diligently tenacious and honest to the bone. I often wondered how baffling the Chinese Border Talk Teams initially found him to be. By any known and measured standards, Dasho Pema Wangchuk would have been the most unlikely person to head the Technical Team on the Boundary Talks with China. However, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck had his unique unfathomable ways.
Mahatma Gandhi the most well known Indian national leader promoted the principle of non- violence but no Indian leader ever practised it after Gandhi died. But in Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who was not even born in Gandhi time , converted that principle of non- violence to fortify the will and means of the Kingdom to deal with the giant neighbours. Imagine the King who is the Supreme Commander of the Security Forces commanding his officers and soldiers to face confrontations with foreign forces at the Borders unarmed. And his troops followed such seemingly astonishing orders in blind faith. That is how till date Bhutan managed to secure her international borders without ever firing a shot. If a shot had been fired that may have been the last shot Bhutan could ever fire against China or India.
Now we might to some little extent comprehend why Dasho Pema Wangchuk was commanded to serve as Secretary of International Boundaries of Bhutan. We had to have a Buddha personality to compensate for all our physical weakness when dealing with China or India on international boundary issues. Just wear them down with patience and smiles until we get what we seek and must preserve what is ours. In retrospection, there is just no other way dreamed by mankind or directed by gods.
Dasho Pema Wangchuk is said to have joined the Royal Government Service in 1962 and till his heart gave in this week, he served the Kingdom. Dasho is one person that we could unhesitatingly declare that he lived and died for the greater glory of our Kingdom.
I wish he lived just one more year to witness the signing of Sino- Bhutan International Boundary Agreement. All the technical field works and surveys have been completed and agreed upon. The latest China Bhutan Border Talk was held in China few months back. Dasho was the deputy leader of the Bhutanese Deligation led by the Foreign Minister. I remember reading in Kuensel that the the final reports of the two technical teams were compared and the two nations agreed upon the finalised technical report. So, in so far as the progress of Bhutan China Border Talks is concerned, I think it has now reached the stage for political decision. The technical agreement is already sealed.
Perhaps it was the Border Talks that somehow kept the Laughing Buddha going. Just last Spring, Dasho who is in his late 70s lead his Technical Team on the trek of the Himalayan mountain ranges along the western Bhutan China Border on a joint Bhutan China Technical Survey. No wonder his sudden death this week has been a shock. Physically he was very fit so thought many near and dear to him. Maybe we underestimated his will power and overestimared his physical fitness. But thank you Dasho for your life given for the cause of greater Bhutan.
I am deeply sorry for the family ( his wife, children and grandchildren ) and even more regretfully sorry that we lost such a phenomenal servant of the Kings, the People and the Kingdom of Bhutan. My own privilege was knowing him personally and keeping myself upto date with the Boundary Talks through following discussions that took place in almost every National Assembly/ Parliament Sessions over the many years and from reading summaries that appeared in Kuensel issues. Once in a public gathering Dasho told me, " You are the only person from outside who seem to have such keen and fair interests ". Dasho had read some of my thoughts on the Bhutan China Boundary Talks. The irony of my humble response was , " Sir, please conclude it in your time. Do not leave it for another. I have not come across another Laughing Buddha ". Dasho did not leave his task uncompleted. He has done his service to the Tsawa Sum. It is now for the Cabinet and the Parliament of Bhutan under the gracious guidance of His Majesty the King to commit the political decision.
The surest tribute to Dasho Pema Wangchuk would be to seal and sign the Bhutan China Border Agreement for which he had devoted many years of his life to conclude.
I pray that the Laughing Buddha is now truely where he belongs - the Kingdom of the gods.