Sunday, December 24, 2017

Service At The Highest Level – A Contineous Endeavor

A tour operator who aspires to provide service at the highest level continues to worry whether he/she has been able to deliver the best that is possible - long after the group has departed for home, and long after the profits have been banked in. As a person engaged in the service and hospitality industries, I have long recognized the correlation between right price for the right service. But once the preliminary stage is crossed - that of obtaining the asking price, my focus shifts to the most important part of the deal - that of preparing for the delivery of the asking service. In its pursuit, I become completely oblivious of the asking price. The price is no longer important.

Nothing should gratify a tour operator more than the praises of their satisfied clients.

Recently I had a couple group from USA for whom I arranged a 9-days trek to Jumolhari/Soe Yaktsa. At the end of the trek, they described my facilities thus:

“Our tent and facility were like a palace among shanties".

This was an obvious reference to my tent and other facilities, compared to those close to 40 tents that were pitched at Jangothang camp site.

 Extreme high altitude tent that can withstand gusts of upto 100 KMs/hour - comfortable at center height of 5'.10"

A whooping 580 lumens Dining/Kitchen LED Lantern

133 lumens Head lamps that can brighten up the whole forest

Extreme protection for the guests' luggage - no less than Pelican hard cases - photographed at Dochu-La with the Himalayan rage as the backdrop

Soft comfort for the head and neck - Premium goose down pillows proudly made in the USA

 Super high 340 lumens LED lamps that brighten up the entire tent

I need no further feed back from my clients on how I performed in the delivery of service. However, the guide is as important as the facilities you provide on a trek ---- so I sent a mail to my clients asking them to rank the guide’s performance. The following is what the husband wrote:


Xxxx Xxxxxxxx was a wonderful guide. He was very knowledgeable about the trails and terrain and weather. Xxxx Xxxxxxxx always told us what to expect and when we would arrive at different milestones or destinations. And he was very good about setting a hiking pace to fit our abilities. He seemed to work very well with the rest of the trail team. He is young and energetic, and sometimes very funny. For instance, when he heard his cell phone ring, he would excuse himself from our conversation by saying, “Oh, sorry, it’s the Prime Minister calling." Xxxx Xxxxxxxx took us on adventures we would never have dreamed of and left us with unforgettable memories.

So it seems that even my guide scored 100%. Thus the guide will remain a team member on my future treks.

In fact the clients were so happy that they donated US$ 4,765.00 to the Rotary Club of Thimphu - to do 2 filtered water supply project to Soe ECR in Jangothang and Bitekha school, Paro.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Service Above Self - Rotary Club of Thimphu's Humanitarian Projects III

Even as we were heaving a sigh of relief upon successful winding down of our Migraine Treatment Project II and Water Filter Projects, word reached us that our Solar Fencing Project was ready for handing over to the beneficiaries in Kheng Nimshong, Zhemgang.

Under funding from the Rotary Club of Handa, Japan, we had begun work on the installation of 7 KMs long solar fencing project in Kheng Nimshong. Not one to be caught tottering in indecision, the Club President Tsewang Rinzing drove to Zhemgang to handover the project to the Nimshong community. While there, he also handed over the SkyHydrant Water Filter Systems at Zhemgang Central School and Yebilaptsa Central School.

 Solar Fencing handed over to the community of Kheng Nimshong

Club President Rtn. Tsewang Rinzing flanked by the community members of Kheng Nimshong

Two years back, we had installed a similar but smaller (4 KMs long) project at Kheng Goleng. This project too was funded by the same Japanese Club - Rotary Club of Handa, Japan.

Proud donors from Japan stand by the Solar fencing project funded by them in Kheng Goleng

The Rotary Club of Thimphu’s core areas of focus are: Agriculture, Education and Health. The Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu believe that there is a need to focus on agriculture production since we have the necessary conditions to grow whatever we need.

The pace at which the Rotary Club of Thimphu delivers projects is breath taking, literally. We need to slow down to catch some breadth but that is not how it is destined to be: we have 4 more projects that are in the pipeline.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Service Above Self - Rotary Club of Thimphu's Humanitarian Projects II

WATER – GIVER OF LIFE: Our planet earth is sometimes called the Blue Planet – a name derived from the color of water. All life forms on earth must draw sustenance from it; it is a life giver, it purifies and is a great source of strength. But it can also cause great destruction. The military have been known to use it as a weapon of annihilation, while in the hands of a healer, it holds the power to cure and mend.

The Bhutanese people know different forms of water by a number of names that differentiate one from the other: seas and oceans are called Jamtsho; large free flowing rivers are called Tsangchhu. Rivulets and small streams are called Rongchhu; while waterfalls take on the name of Zarchhu. Pools and ponds are known as Umchhu and, best among the best of waters are called Drupchhu: blessed water that emanate out of cavities of rocks and cliffs.

Water plays a variety of important roles in the life of a Bhutanese. In traditional Bhutan, every mother of a newborn must be fed water to re-condition her body from the ravages of childbirth. Every newborn must begin life on this earth by being cleansed by water – a ritual known as the Lhabtsang Thruesey.

Bhutanese also use water as burial grounds. Stillborn babies and children under five years of age, including those who die at age 81 are not cremated but put into woven cane baskets and wooden boxes and submerged into deep pools of rivers.

But the most important use of water is for drinking purpose. Water is central to healthy growth of children and adults alike. While Bhutan has the highest per capita availability of water in the region, access to clean and safe drinking water is a huge challenge. The problem of plenty has been caused mainly because of our geography. While settlements and farmlands are on hilltops, most waters are in the ravines at the bottom of the valleys. Thus there is paucity of accessible water, quite often forcing people to consume unsafe water that are not necessarily contaminated - but mostly muddy.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu became aware of the lack of safe drinking water in some of our rural schools. Thus, over the past 3 years, we have been endeavoring to help in the delivery of safe drinking water, particularly to schools in the rural areas. So far we have done close to 15 projects around the country.

It was during February this year that we were made aware of a filtration system that was unique and most ideal for Bhutan’s conditions. Called the SkyHydrant Water Filtration Systems, these industrial capacity water filters that are built like tanks, are capable of dispensing 12,000 ltrs. of clean and safe drinking water a day. Since the time the Malaysian Rotarian - Rtn. K K Looi - introduced us to this filter, we have been relentless in our pursuit at acquiring few units of these fabulous filtration systems, for installation in our schools.

The massive industrial sized SkyHydrant MAX Water Filter System that can churn out 12,000 lts. of clean drinking water per day

Late September of this year we were informed that a Disaster Aid Response Team (DART) Member from Disaster Aid Australia would be arriving Bhutan with 2 units of these fabulous filters. Mr. Andrew Gunn, a DART Member from Disaster Aid Australia arrived Bhutan on 30th September, 2017 – carrying with him two enormous packages of SkyHydrant filters. Since then, we have received further 4 units. As of now, we have installed these filters in the following schools:

Bongo Primary School, Chukha

 Dashiding Higher Secondary School, Punakha

Lobesa Lower Secondary School, Punakha

Yebilabtsa Central School, Zhemgang

Zhemgang Central School, Zhemgang

One more unit is due for installation at the Udzorong Central School, Trashigang - bringing the total installation of these great filters to 6 units so far. It is our hope that Disaster Aid Australia will continue to support us in delivering clean and safe drinking water to our school children around the country.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Service Above Self - Rotary Club of Thimphu's Humanitarian Projects I

The months of September, October, November and December were very busy months for the Rotary Club of Thimphu. I dare say that the number of projects we did during this period has to be a record in the Rotary world.

It began with our signature project - The Treatment of Migraine by Acupuncture Project II during late September to mid October. Although intended to treat migraine only, this project treated a total of 1,194 patients of a variety of ailments - from knock-knees to cerebral palsy. The treatments were carried out in three different places: Thimphu, Paro and Punakha.

The project received validation at the highest level when the two doctors and the translator from the US working on the Project were informed that they would be receiving a Royal Audience from the Great Drukgyal Zhipa! For the doctors, they were aware that there couldn’t be a greater honor than to meet and talk to a Monarch without parallel. For their act of charity, the Royal Audience is their just reward.

The famed Dr. Lin treating a patient

 Dr. Yu examining a monk at Punakha

 A training course in progress for the Drungtshos at the Traditional Medicine Hospital, Thimphu

Even while the Migraine Project was in full swing, I get the sweet, sweet news that the Disaster Aid Australia has agreed to gift us some units of SkyHydrant Water Filter Systems. Now this has got to be absolutely Karmic! Combine the adulation of having our project recognized at the highest level, with the news that we are going to get these awesome filters that we have been eying for a while --- you can guess that my ecstasy was nothing short of subliminal!

Life is looking GOOD!

Full report of the Project can be read at:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Albinism or Leucism

Is this an Alibino or is the bird suffering from a genetic condition called Leucism? The bird on the right is obviously a Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) – because I saw it foraging among Common Mynas in Tingtingbi, Zhemgang where I took this photo during my recent trip there. Except for its grayish/whitish coloring, the bird has the features of a Common Myna. But compare its colors to how a normal Common Myna is colored, on the left. I am tempted to believe that the bird is not an albino since you can see the presence of pigments. The other clue that should confirm it as Leucistic is its eye colors – they are normal colored and not pink or red that is typical in the Albinos.

Any views anybody? 

Whatever it is, it is still a bird

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rotary Club of Thimphu is a Global Grant Donor

In the past five years since our Charter in 2012, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has received tens of millions of Ngultrums from the international community of Rotarians - to fund meaningful projects in the Club's core areas of focus: Agriculture, Education and Health. For once, the tables have been turned on us - we recently received a request from a Club in Australia - to be a Global Grant donor to a project they are endeavoring to do.

In a swift decision made yesterday, our Club Members decided that being poor was no justifiable reason not to give. Our Club will, for the first time, act as a donor and not a recipient. As requested by the Australian Club, we have agreed to donate the requested sum to help them do their humanitarian project.

It is a joy and a privilege to belong to a comity of people who are more heart and less mouth.
Dear Rtn. Bruce,

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your mail dated 14th November, 2017 soliciting our support in being a Global Grant partner in your drive towards raising funds to eradicate FASD among the First Nation people of the Kalgoorlie-Goldfields region of Western Australia.

In my capacity as the Club Secretary of the Rotary Club of Thimphu, I had the opportunity to put up your request to our Club Members for their consideration, during our weekly Club Meeting held yesterday.

While making a pitch for your cause, I presented the following to our Members.

1.  More than half a century ago, in 1962, it was the then Australian
     Prime Minister Sir Robert Gordon Menzies who invited Bhutan
     to attend the 14th Consultative Committee Meeting of the
     Colombo Plan – as an observer. This resulted in the Colombo
     Plan making the rare exception of admitting a none-qualified
     Bhutan as a Member. Thus, Australia has been pivotal in
     Bhutan’s joining a world body for the first time in its history.
     This was a prodigious moment for Bhutan – being admitted as a
     member of the Colombo Plan meant that Bhutan was now
     recognized as an independent sovereign country.

2. In the last one decade alone, more than 500 Bhutanese have
    received scholarships from the Australian Government. This year
    alone, over 60 scholarships are on offer to Bhutanese academics.

3. In recent times, Australia has emerged as the most preferred
    destination for the Bhutanese – both for education as well as for
    employment. Bhutanese prefer Australia over even USA. There
    are few thousand Bhutanese currently domiciled in Australia
    – very happily and comfortably.

4. In the last two months, Disaster Aid Australia (a project of the
    Rotary Club of Endeavor Hills) has donated 6 SkyHydrant water
    filter systems to 6 of our schools in rural Bhutan. Valued at tens
    of thousands of dollars, these innovative water filters dispense
   10,000 liters of filtered water every day, for the safety of
    our school children's health.

5. Bhutan is grateful to Australia – for its role as a longstanding
    development partner. In recognition of this fact, you may be
    happy to know that the Royal Government of Bhutan has
    declared the year 2018 as a special Bhutan-Australia Friendship
    Year. In celebration, the Royal Government of Bhutan is
    allowing all Australian nationals to visit Bhutan without having
    to pay the mandatory Minimum Daily Tariff. During the
    3 months of June, July and August 2018, all Australian Passport
    holders can visit Bhutan on payment of the sustainable
    development fee of US$ 65.00 only.

For us at the RC Thimphu, a request from Australia – perhaps first of its kind - is no trivial matter. I am happy to inform you that after a short discussion, all our Members were emphatic in their support for your cause and have agreed that they will contribute personally to raise the requested US$2,000.00 as our Club’s cash contribution to your humanitarian cause.

We are a poor Club but we all agreed that being poor is not good enough justification not to give. We thank you for offering us this opportunity to give.

Please let us know when is the dateline for us to remit the money. Please also let us know how or where we may make the payment.

Thanking you and wishing you success in your endeavors, I remain,

Yours in Rotary,

Yeshey Dorji
Club Secretary 2017 - 2018
Chair for Vocational/Youth Services

RID 3292

Monday, November 13, 2017

Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth

One anonymous reader commented the following on Wangcha Sangay's Blog. He/she is spot on! I wanted to express a similar view on the matter ... but decided not to because frankly I am getting pretty tired of making noise all the time.

Something is not quite right about this. But I have not really had the time to read and understand the issue properly. Is the governemnt of India waiving off GST on petrol and diesel for the benefit of the people of Bhutan? Or is it that the government of India is implementing excise duty refund at source? These are two different issues and cannot be misconstrued to mean the same.


Suddenly making commodities artificially cheaper is not a long-term solution that strengthens our sovereignty. I fully agree with the author on this issue of national importance. When petrol and diesel are more expensive in the country that we import from, this cannot be good. This is common sense. In previous years, the excise amount was refunded to the government of Bhutan; now the attempt is to give it back to the people – there is merit in this because it was the people’s money to begin with. But, people did not complain in the past when the government took the excise refund because we assumed it was going for overall development of the country.

Passing on over Nu. 2 billion to the car owners is not democratic. To put it in perspective, that is over $30 million. What about the majority of people who do not own cars and are therefore not directly affected? One could say, “But the excise was collected from car owners, and not everyone.” By that argument, they are also using roads and infrastructure that was built by the state more than others; they pollute the air, which everyone has to breathe and the argument can go on. Of course, it is hoped that the drop in petrol and diesel price will lead to a drop in commodity prices, but we don’t know if that will happen. The government may further interfere in price control and prevent free-market mechanisms operating on the principles of supply and demand. Wouldn’t more Bhutanese be affected if cooking gas prices were dropped instead? More Bhutanese depend on that than on vehicle fuel. It is easy politically to get rid of tax, but very difficult to raise it. Tax hikes are politically damaging and getting rid of taxes can make a political party popular. When people are not complaining about the ‘dirty tax’ on a product that we solely import, is not good for our environment, and is used by only people who have cash income, removing it just like that is a disservice to the country if you look hard. Higher prices can control import. Places like Thimphu are getting congested with imported cars, and we need more efficient pubic transport. Over Nu. 2 billion+ that could have gone to the 12th FYP, the Health Trust Fund to fund vaccines for all Bhutanese, or to set up efficient public transport is now doled out to car owners. For a country to strengthen its sovereignty we need to broaden our revenue base, and sensible taxation is one way to do that. We cannot fold our hands and go begging for funds to run a welfare state. That is damaging to our sovereignty because we are beholden to those foreign entities again. Here we had one small opportunity to slowly ask for less from India, and we blew it.

While we respect our neighbours, we cannot fully trust their motives. Elections are just around the corner, and all political parties should have Bhutan’s sovereignty foremost in their minds. PLEASE stop dragging the sanctity of our Bodhisattva monarchs into politics. We need a constitutional order that prohibits political parties from using the sacredness of His Majesty and the Royal Family in their schemes. Every Bhutanese should espouse whole-hearted allegiance and loyalty to the Royal Family from deep within our hearts. For without that, we should be ashamed to even call ourselves Bhutanese.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Complicated World and Words of the DXers

This is the DXpedition report made by Steve Jones of USA who operated ham radio from Paro last month. He worked the Bhutanese airwaves under his visitor’s license with the Call Sign A52SJ. I reported his arrival and his story on this Blog on October 12, 2017.

In an age of super fast internet, the lowly wired wireless still attracts the world's most brilliant brains. I believe that the appeal has to do with the complexity of this primitive and yet most bankable mode of communications.

It is my hope that some day the DeSuung would introduce ham radio in their training curricula, so that a select group of the specialized DeSuups are skilled in ham radio communications. When every other form of communication fails, ham radio will be the only one that will stand up and communicate. It will work even from the top of Mt. Everest.


To all of you who helped me and/or tried to work me at A52SJ on 160 meters,

Thank you! Unfortunately I worked no US West Coast (or any US coast for that matter), but I had a blast.  Bhutan is a wonderful and fascinating place. And the people are very friendly and helpful!  Gross National Happiness is a fine line they are navigating, but so far they are maintaining their unique culture while borrowing what’s useful from Western technology. I was even able to see the area where Gus Browning operated AC2H in Wangduephodrang when I worked him there from Sacramento in 1965. There were no paved roads to the town back then.  Gus’s Hammarlund HX-50 now resides in the Bhutan National Museum in Trongsa.

My station was up and on the air about 6 hours after our Airbus 319 landed in Paro, thanks to Yeshey Dorji’s (A51AA) great team of helpers. It worked as planned and I was able to work everything I heard on 160 meters. The 1-wavelength Beverage was wonderful, dropping noise by about 10 dB when running the K3 in Diversity RX mode. Signals just popped out of the background. But “everything I heard” on 160M was all of only 9 QSOs! CW conditions were terrible. JT5DX answered my CQ the first day as soon as the sun went down, but then I heard nothing on CW for the next 2 weeks except a too-faint RL9Y and the 2nd harmonics of Chinese broadcast stations.

On FT8 I worked Asia and Europe, including PE1RNU near Amsterdam, but there seemed to be a black hole toward North America. I didn’t even hear/decode any JA’s. I did see my call decoded and reported on PSK Reporter all over the US East Coast and Midwest, but no one called me from there.  The Bhutanese would say the propagation gods were wrathful. I tend to agree.

With the Beverage I heard some signals on 80M (i.e. many JA’s) and lots of worldwide DX on 40M and above. But my Inverted L was cut for 160M and I couldn’t easily switch bands. I thought about lowering the L and cutting the wires into a dipole for 80M or 40M just to make some contacts. But it would have been very time consuming to restore the L to 160M if propagation improved, so I decided to stay on 160M and hope for an opening. If I were to do this again, I’d bring a remotely switchable tuning network to allow quick band-switching on the TX antenna. That might require a bigger suitcase! I was unable to exchange emails with you real-time as the Hotel Olathang’s WIFI was too far away from our cottage. I checked emails only when we were near the hotel lobby at breakfast or dinner, and that’s why my replies to you were typically rather untimely.

Again, thank you all for your great encouragement, and I hope to work you on 160M someday from N6SJ.

Vy 73,



Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Very Un-Neighborly Interest Rate?

India recently inaugurated the start of work on their 508 KMs Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project that is expected to be completed by 2023. The project was initially estimated at Rs. 63,000 Crores but it now stands at Rs.110,000 Crores (about US$17 billion). This is 8 times Bhutan’s GDP! But that is not the breaking news.

Of this total sum, 81% or Rs. 88,000 Crores is being loaned by Japan. That is still not the big news.

Even more interesting, the loan is repayable over 50 years – starting after 15 years as of 2017. That is very, very interesting – but not entirely earth shattering.

What is THE BREAKING NEWS is this: India is getting the loan from Japan at 0.10% p.a.!!! Yes, what you are seeing is correct – the interest rate is ZERO POINT ONE ZERO PERCENT!

Compare that to what Bhutan is paying to India for our doomed hydro-power projects:

10% p.a.

This is one hundred times more than the rate India will pay Japan!!!

India is our closest friend and ally – through thick and thin, we have been with them ---- so naturally we are very happy that they got such a fantastic deal from Japan.

But what about us? India is an emerging economy with a GDP of US$2,400 billion. Our GDP is a minuscule US$2.4 billion – less than one thousandth of India’s.

How come a poor country like Bhutan is paying an interest rate that is hundred times more than what one of the world’s biggest economies is paying?


Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Handful of Red Bhutanese Earth – After 52 Years

In a faraway land at the edge of the earth—a place called Sacramento, California, USA, 14 time zones away from Bhutan—a young starry-eyed novice amateur ham operator sat at his set, rotating the dial of his station. Suddenly, he chanced upon what is known in ham parlance as a “pile-up”. Incredulous and spellbound, he edged closer to make sure that he was hearing correctly what was being transmitted over the airwaves in single sideband, or SSB, mode.

There was no mistaking it! Even as he listened breathlessly, he realized that he was witness to an extremely rare ham radio event. A dream opportunity was being orchestrated right in front of his eyes—or ears. And yet, he could not participate, hampered as he was by his older, simpler continuous wave, or CW-only, radio set.

All of a sudden, through the deafening cacophony of a million SSB calls, he heard an unmistakable South Carolina drawl:

“OK boys, now let’s stand by for the Corn Whiskey (CW) station.  The Corn Whiskey station only, please, go ahead.” 

His hand trembling with excitement, the novice grabbed his telegraph key and, in a series of dits and dahs, sent out his then CallSign, WA6SVY, in CW mode: Morse Code.  The center of the universe on the receiving end acknowledged his call thus:

“WA6SVY you are five-seven-nine."

It was 29th April, 1965, 8.19 AM in Sacramento; 9.19 PM in Thimphu. The young operator was the 17-year-old novice ham, Stephen Frederick Jones. The operator on the other side of the globe was none other than the legendary American Ham radio D’Xpeditioner, Gus Browning. Gus, as he was known in the ham world, was operating from a land that fewer than 0.50% of Americans had heard of—a place called Bhutan, then considered the rarest of rare ham radio countries.

In the annals of ham radio history, it was a signal event, literally and figuratively. For the young Steve Jones, it was a windfall few amateurs around the world dare dream of: getting a QSO, or conversational contact, from the fabled Gus. Even more astonishing, Gus was operating from a ham radio Shangri-La, a mythical Himalayan Kingdom that to this day eludes most people’s geographic familiarity.

Ham Radio CallSign of Stephen Frederick Jones, as he was known as a novice operator.

QSL Card of Gus issued to Steve Jones for his contact in 1965
More than half a century of pinning to operate ham radio from Bhutan, the young novice – now a greying 69 years old First Class ham radio operator – Stephen Frederick Jones - has finally made it to Bhutan. He arrived Paro this morning - 12th October, 2017 and right away went about trying to string up his 160M wire antennae. But before he proceeded with the set up, he stooped to the ground and gathered up a handful of red Bhutanese earth and uttered; “I am finally here”.

Steve & Valerie

Mr. Stephen Frederick Jones started to send out his radio signals to the world hams – beginning this evening. He will operate until the night of 18th October. To honor the legendary Gus, Steve has named his DXpedition “Gus Browning Memorial DXpedition” (

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Trendy Sand Buckets For The Sake of The Environment

I am quite unwilling to believe that we can repair the destruction we have already caused to our environment. But certainly I believe that we can halt it from further ruin. For that reason, for the past over a decade, I have stopped using toilet paper – I use water – it is more hygienic, it is good for the environment and, more importantly, it doesn't burn a hole in your pocket.

To reduce the proliferation of harmful plastics, I never accept a plastic bag when I go shopping – I gather up all my merchandise in my arms and carry it off to my car. It is not much, but that is still one plastic bag less for the landfill. Each of us has a responsibility to act mindfully, to care for the environment that is getting sicker by the year. We need to talk less of environment and do more for its protection.

I have a trek coming up in the next few days. One item that caused me considerable bit of worry and exasperation was the matter concerning a sand bucket that I needed - for use in the toilet tent to hold sand/earth. I just didn't want to use a plastic pail. I didn't have an answer to my problem - until I thought of Clean Bhutan.

I had seen that Clean Bhutan was into salvaging discarded empty plastic packets of chips, milk powder etc. out of which they produced bags and a variety of colorful containers and boxes. I went over to their office to speak with Nedup, and to ask if he would organize the weaving of few pcs. of containers for me. My specifications were simple - they should be sturdy enough to stand upright and hold sand/earth, but supple enough that I can fold them to be stuffed into Zems. Three days later, I had three pcs. of multi-colored containers fashioned out of waste plastic wrappings.

 Trendy & colorful. Sand buckets fashioned out of discarded plastic wrappings

Sturdy enough to stand upright and hold sand/soil, and yet supple enough to be folded and stuffed into Zems

I dare say that this is a trendy way of contributing to the cause of the environment.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Doklam Thaw - Nothing Changes for Bhutan

It appears that there is a thaw in the stand-off at Doklam between China and India. Both Chinese and Indian spokespersons have individually made the disengagement announcements to the world audience.

But nothing changes for Bhutan – the issue remains unresolved – to be stoked time and again in the future, at the will and fancy of China or India. This temporary respite is nothing to be gleeful about. We need to resolve this border issue, once and for all.

One Nepali writer – Mr. Bihari Krishna Shrestha - recently wrote as follows:

“Talking about Bhutan too, recently there was a BJP leader who had the impudence to tell his audience in Kathmandu that India would like to see Nepal remain “as happy as Bhutan”. One just has to ask the Bhutanese if they are happy to be remaining as what is basically India’s caged pet!”

Caged pet indeed! I should take offense at his remark – and I do – but not for the malice that was intended – but for failing to use a more precise nomenclature to describe the true nature of Bhutan-India relationship. By definition, “pet” is not a plaything – but an object of love and adoration and indulgence. Mr. Bihari Krishna Shrestha does not seem to be aware that Bhutan does not have the good fortune to be India’s pet. He would have been spot on if he had added a short 3-letters word “pup” before the “pet”.

Disengagement at Doklam between China and India is cold comfort for Bhutan. In fact, why are we even talking about it? But certainly, there is a lesson to be learnt from this incident – that Bhutan runs the risk of being violated by any one of these big powers, as and when they have a need for posturing. And they will do it with impunity – as has happened this June. So the answer is: sort it out once and for all. And let us do it quickly – the time for pussyfooting around the issue is over.

Without so much as a by your leave, two invading foreign armies were engaged in acts of aggression, in a region that we believe is ours. Our fear is not the dread of loss of territory that is in any event under dispute – but the fall out from a war that is not of our waging. If China and India wishes to engage in war, they should do so in their own territories – not on ours.

Until this Doklam incident happened, 99% of Bhutanese did not know that there was a dispute between China and Bhutan, at that location which is now being called Doka-La. My own understanding was that the dispute was further up North where the Google map clearly shows as disputed territory – a patch of land known as Doklam Plateau. The dispute down south I have never heard before, nor does the Google map show it as a disputed territory.

Ever since the Doklam incident, I have started to look at the map a little more closely. Because, frankly, the treaty of 1890 that keeps popping up does not relate to Bhutan and its territorial boundaries. For me, the traditional knowledge of the Haaps and the Tibetans is more authentic than the lines drawn on the map - because they have physically lived those boundaries that have existed for hundreds of years. I am unwilling to accept that those imaginary lines drawn across the map – like those of the McMahon Lines in the North-East, hold water because the boundaries were never surveyed and demarcated between Bhutan and Tibet-China.

China and India are big countries – but truth is bigger than both of them combined. Thus, let us settle the borders, based on what is THE TRUTH. One cannot hope to alter the truth simply because it does not suite ones purpose.

All manners of maps are being put out in the internet - there is whole lot of confusion out there. For the benefit of the confused Bhutanese, I spent some time to study the maps and the claims and counter claims being made on the territories. In the following maps, I have clearly marked what is the current claim made by Bhutan and those made by China. Rest I leave to your imagination.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Doklam Plateau And The Shifting Tri-junction Points

As much as I try to desist from writing on the issue of Doklam that has prompted a hoard of ill-informed and poorly educated people around the world to hurl derogatory terms such as “puppet”, “vassal”, “protectorate” etc. at Bhutan and the Bhutanese people, I am unable to contain myself, simply because what is being put out is so much falsehood and misinformation and treachery and dishonesty.

The stand-off between India and China, from what is clearly obvious, is not based on their necessity for that piece of land, or on their legal or historical right of ownership over that land, but because, by their own admission, that land will give one of them strategic dominance over the other. If contemplation of war is at the core of their act of belligerence, all that one can say of these two countries is that they suffer from paucity of morality and human decency. It is Bhutan’s misfortune that we are centered between these two debauched nations.

It is rather odd that the world is being mislead into believing that these two nations need, of all things, a desolately located Himalayan plateau, called Doklam Plateau, to give them military dominance over the other. How many of us will buy that logic? If wars are to be fought and won, it will not be won from atop a frigid plateau located deep inside the Himalayan ranges. Each of these two nations have superior military power, with nuclear capability. Thus, if war is their intention, each of them can simply activate a switch siting in Beijing and New Delhi and annihilate each other from the face of this earth. Thus their argument that Doklam Plateau is critical to their national security is not tenable.

Even if that were true, it is still not good enough or valid enough reason for any country to trample on the sovereignty of a small and peaceful country such as Bhutan, who is, after all, the only country that has the moral authority and historical legitimacy, to give credence to the claims and counter claims being made by these two countries who are shamelessly engaged in irrelevant verbosity.

The world would have noticed that the one country that, by right, should be at the center of this brouhaha is conspicuously silent over the whole matter - other than a half-hearted Demarche issued in June of this year.

Doklam Plateau is at the Tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet. Of these three countries, Bhutan is the only one that is still standing. China and India may have selectively annexed Sikkim and Tibet, but their overlording these nation states do not empower them to speak with knowledge and authority. Their relevance begins in 1950 in the case of China, and 1975 in the case of India. As opposed to that, the knowledge base of the people of Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet on the matter goes back many centuries.

While India was buckling under the successive colonial yoke of the British Raj, the French and the Portuguese, the Bhutanese and the Tibetans were happily grazing their yaks in the Doklam Plateau areas – fully cognizant and respectful of their respective boundaries. There was no confusion.

Similarly, while the Manchus and the Mongols and the Japanese were one after the other subjugating the Chinese, the Bhutanese and the Tibetan’s were quite merrily trading and exchanging merchandise across their borders and living in harmony.

Something that the world must consider very seriously, even if the Chinese and the Indians won’t, is this: there was never any disagreement between Bhutan and Tibet concerning their territorial boundaries. The Bhutanese and the Tibetans made their annual migrations to the pasture lands in the Doklam areas, to graze their yaks in peace and harmony. They both knew and respected the exact locations of their respective boundaries.

So then why is there a dispute now? How can two Johnnies-come-lately start disagreeing on the physical boundaries that have been in place for centuries – perhaps even pre-dating their respective civilizations? Has there been some tectonic shift in the Eastern Himalayas that have caused some drastic geographical alterations in the Doklam areas, causing traditional boundaries to go for a spin?

Four years to the month (August 2013), I had written that the issue of Doklam is dangerous and that we should resolve it without delay. Four years since, we are still engaged in the same useless cock and bull story that cannot contribute to solving the problem that needs solving. We all know that without the backing of truth behind what we do, whatever we do will be doomed to failure. Let us not postpone that which is inevitable – the dispute needs to be resolved – it cannot be postponed forever. Doing so thus far has already complicated the issues as can be seen from the following:

To begin with, the disputed area between Bhutan and China was supposed to be at the Doklam Plateau areas, located on the West-South of Haa, as depicted in the above map.

The most recent claims emerging as a result of the stand-off between China and India indicate that the Tri-junction is now centered at a place called Gymochen, further down south of Batang-La which was earlier taken as the Tri-junction point.

Consequent upon relocation of the Tri-junction point to Gymochen further down south, China now claims addition land, as indicated above.

Bhutan should settle the issue of the Northern borders with China, without further delay. It would be stupid to assume that we can stall the matter indefinitely - a day will dawn on us when we have to make the settlement - we all know that. Thus, it is better that we do it sooner than later. If 24 rounds of border talks with China hasn't brought us any closer to arriving at a settlement, I do not know what will help.

 Certainly not audacity!