Monday, July 1, 2013

Bhutan's Road to Democracy: II

The Indian reporter Sachin Parashar’s article in the Times of India (ToI) titled “Bhutan’s road to democracy leads to China?” has received unnecessary attention among the Bhutanese - mainly because some of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidates has used it as a platform to launch an attack on their political rival - the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). The point being made is that the article is proof that the erstwhile DPT government has jeopardized Indo-Bhutan relations.

It is rather unfortunate. The fact that it is being raised at this critical juncture in the General Elections is clearly a shortsighted play by the PDP to gain some political points over their opponent. In making this a campaign issue, the PDP has crossed, what the Indians would call, the Lakshman Rekha. I cannot understand what their desperation is. This is an issue very few of their candidates can talk on or write about, authoritatively. The subject is way out of their league. More importantly, the PDP chose to drum up hysteria over this issue - by every one of their candidates - in every Common Forum since 26th June - based on a very uneducated and poorly written article by a reporter of no repute. There is something fishy about the timing of the article and the manner in which the PDP keeps harping on an article that is not worth a sideways glace.

Both Bhutan and India understands the consequences of a strained relation that has been nurtured and sustained over the past six decades. Ours is a relationship that is without parallel. This is not a one-sided relationship but one that is based on respect for each other - a relationship that is both mutually fulfilling and beneficial.

When every other country in the neighborhood is happily playing the China card against India, Bhutan remains the last country in South Asia that is resolutely pro-India. Since the early 50’s, Bhutan has remained a steadfast friend of India. Our future is so entwined with that of India’s that it would be impossible to imagine a future without India by our side - as our mentor, partner and benefactor. India has never failed us and, despite what some unknown reporter in India might write, despite what some irresponsible reporters in Bhutan might write, India will remain firmly behind us. It is in their interest to do so.

India has always depended on Bhutan to be there - in their hour of need. It is not very often that India needs our help - but when they do, we did not fail them - every time. Take, for instance, the case of their Republic Day Celebrations this year.

The Sultan of Oman was supposed to be the Chief Guest during the celebrations. However, because of some bungling by the bureaucrats, the invitation to the Head of State was handled inappropriately - resulting in a humiliating rebuff from Muscat. In desperation, India turned to Bhutan - in an effort to salvage a most humiliating and disastrous situation. Disregarding established protocol, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk readily accepted to stand in for the Sultan of Oman.

The trust is not one-sided. India’s trust in Bhutan is explicit as well. That is evidenced by the level of their investment in the country. Nepal’s hydropower potential is almost double that of Bhutan’s and yet, Bhutan is where India chose to invest. Politicians should be careful not to jeopardize a bond and relationship that has been built over many decades.

Please keep this issue out of the election campaign trail!

.............. To Be Continued

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