It all began with Indian Prime Minister His Excellency Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's arduous journey to Bhutan in 1958. I often wondered why a 68 year old PM of India had to trek on foot, on horse back and ride Yaks to come to meet the King of Bhutan. The King of Bhutan much younger in age 29 years and mountain fit physically could have travelled to New Delhi.
Then much later I came across a book by an Indian author who travelled with Nehru's party. In his book, he related that Nehru was surprised that the King of Bhutan accepted so little of what Nehru had to offer. It seems that the Dragon King was not that enthusiastic about opening up to India. No wonder the King did not choose to visit New Delhi. He was quite comfortable with the way things were both socially and politically within his Kingdom. The King had come upon the Throne in 1952. And immediately had shifted the Capital to Thimphu. Then constituted the National Assembly to give voice to his people in the administration of the Nation. He also did away with the heavy taxes both material and labour. The King had already mapped out his reign. He did not fear China or India. But Prime Minister of India felt that he had to meet the King because the Kingdom of Bhutan was the vital buffer state between China and India. And India needed the goodwill and friendship of Bhutan.
In 1956, both His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness the Panchen Lama of Tibet visited India to celebrate the 2500 years Buddha Jayanti. It was outwardly a religious visit but may have been a planned political visit though not that well planned. ( I say " not so well planned " because it was during this visit that His Holiness the Panchen Lama lost faith in the Indian Government due to protocol insult ). Between 1956 and 1958, development in Tibet did not go in the way India and her Western Allies had envisioned. And Prime Minister Nehru may have realised that with Tibet gone, India had to have Bhutan on Indian side or else whole of North Eastern States would fall into Chinese hand.
It seems Nehru's trek to Bhutan had two purpose. One was that the King of Bhutan was not prepared to travel to New Delhi. So Nehru had to trek to Bhutan.
His Majesty the King of Bhutan was too shrewed a politician to take the Indian bait. The King was not going to publicly take sides in a regional tussle between China and India by going to Delhi. His Majesty may not have felt any urgency to seek Indian friendship or goodwill let alone ( now much hyped ) protection as Indian of all shameful brand want the world to believe.
And the second purpose may have been to study the geographical layout of Sino- Bhutan Border. ( The Indian PM was accorded a Chinese reception after crossing Nathu La probably in the vicinity of Doklam ). Also Nehru would have wanted to study the strength and base of the Dragon King who refused invitation to New Delhi and who had nothing to discuss with Indian political emissaries including the Indian Political Officer in Sikkim.
There is an incredible scene documented by Indian documentary team. One is of the King of Bhutan substituting his Bhutanese translator assigned to translate Nehru's speech to the Bhutanese public at Paro Ugyen Pelri Palace ground. The raised traditional podium for Nehru's address to the Bhutanese nation is still preserved in its original form. His solemn commitment though has vanished with the wind. His Majesty had very good command of the Hindi language. In fact during his visit to India, he addressed the Indian nation over All India Radio in Hindi to the astonishment of Indian heavy weights.
Another scene that really got my adoring attention was the King hitting the target with both his arrows as PM Nehru watched on at the archery ground. Bhutanese believe that such domineering display of skill at such an occassion demonstrated the dragon spirit of the Druk Gyalpo. The King was superbly confident and it seems Shri Pandit Nehru got the silent message. The Indian PM took pains to assure Bhutan that India was seeking friendship with an equally sovereign Bhutan. Size did not matter. I invite Indian political hawks to re- read the speech of their Prime Minister to the Bhutanese nation.
His Majesty died in 1972. Till then though the 1949 Treaty was not revised, the ground reality demonstrated that Bhutan only considered India an equal friend who sought Bhutanese friendship and goodwill to secure her north-eastern states. Bhutan herself never seriously feared any Chinese invasion. Chinese troops did not follow the Tibetan refugees into Bhutan in 1959. And in 1962 again the Chinese troops at Arunachal did not violate the Bhutanese sovereign land at her Eastern border.
Diplomatic relation was established between India and Bhutan. The embassies were named Mission to illustrate close friendly ties. Not because of uneven relation between the strong and the weak. It was in line with the nomenclature of High Commission instead of Embassy nonemclature between former colonies of British Empire to illustrate closeness. The Head of Missions in New Delhi and Thimphu were named Represententatives with Plenipotentiary powers similar to High Commissioners and Ambassadors. Yet after His Majesty passed away, India started down grading the status of the Mission. And it took much effort on part of His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuk to change the Mission to Embassy nonemclature to silence any further Indian political maneuvering.
Today during Doklam crisis, Indian Agencies, Media and Analysts so freely declare that Bhutan is a " Protectorate of India". And this is happening in the reign of the Fifth King. India is repeating history to test the Dragon King on the Throne.
They have refused to acknowledge the status of 2007 revised 1949 Indo-Bhutan Treaty that reflected ground realities and the demands of modern political relationship between two nation states. The 2007 revision of 1949 Indo - Bhutan Treaty was hammered out between His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and His Excellency Prime Minister ManMohan Singh. Indians now claim that the old clause of India managing external affairs of Bhutan still applies though the same was done away with in the revised Treaty. I wonder what is the actual take of the two honourable Signatories of the revised 2007 Treaty? The two Signatories were the the King of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck the Fifth King of Bhutan and His Excellency President Pranab Mukerjee of India in their official capacities as the Crown Prince of Bhutan and Minister of External Affairs of India in 2007. The two eminent negotiators are still in good health and very much present in the political scenes of Bhutan and India.
How did Nehru's trek of 1958 solicitating the good will and friendship of Bhutan for the sole purpose of protecting the security of North Eastern Plains of India change into that of the Kingdom of Bhutan seeking protection and economic assistance from India? Who are responsible for such distortion of Bhutan- India Relationship? Why does Bhutan accept such distortion of historical events ?
The ongoing silence of Bhutanese leadership is not necessarily a cause for Bhutanese public to be anxious . But I hope we as a nation is gathering the courage to sign the Border Agreement with China and establish long awaited diplomatic relationship. Not that we do not value friendship with India. Not that we need the goodwill and protection of China. But to remove once and for all times this stigma of being called and treated by India as a " Protectorate State ". It is an insult to the Tsawa Sum ( The King, the Bhutanese nation and the Bhutanese People ) to be so off handedly humiliated to protectorate status.
India has slashed the hand of friendship that His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck extended to His Excellency Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru when he treked to Bhutan solicitating friendship and goodwill in 1958. As Defence Minister of India Shri Arun Jaitley said, India is no longer the old India. In her new found wealth and power, India forgot Bhutan of 1958 who befriended a desperate needy India.
I have heard few Bhutanese people wondering about whether Bhutanese national Democratic leadership and Political Parties are ready to stand up to this onslaught upon Bhutanese sovereignty or simply are readying to ask for more Indian money to fill their personal coffers. I have no idea what is going on in the silence of political darkness. However, the Constitution has entrusted the security of the nation and the welfare of the citizens to one Institution- The King of Bhutan. So I guess all are awaiting in respectful silence.
I feel that India should not interpret this silence and lull in the Bhutanese polity as a sign of meekness. Sure Bhutan would hesitate a great deal because we had genuine friendship for India. But no friendship warrants self suicide. The King of Bhutan owes it to the Throne, to the forefathers and to the solemn oath to protect and serve the Kingdom and her people to stand up to such blatant political aggression. Accepting " protectorate status quo " is only for people like late Kazi Lhendup Dorji of Sikkim. And he lived in hell whilst on this earth for his betrayal of the Kingdom of Sikkim.
Pelden Drukpa ! Lha Gyel Lo! May Triple Gem Bless our great King with the gift of good health, indomitable spirit and ocean of wisdom.