Urging India to take up with Bhutan on the dignified repatriation of Bhutanese refugees, and integration of the political parties in exile in the Himalayan Kingdom’s democratic polity, the Druk National Congress (DNC) and the Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) jointly submitted a memorandum to the visiting External Affairs Minister of India Salman Khurshid in Kathmandu on Tuesday.
Signed by DNC President KesangLhendup and Acting President of BNDP Dr D.N.S Dhakal, the memorandum has drawn attention of the Indian foreign minister towards the issues related to the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and other countries after third country resettlement, July 13 elections in Bhutan, prevalence of poverty in Bhutan and the country’s economy, bilateral relationship between Bhutan and India, and New Delhi’s discontinuation on subsidy to Bhutan on essential commodities including fuel.
Both parties expressed their concerns about the media hype about the deteriorating bilateral relationship between Bhutan and India, and said such development is not in the interest of Bhutanese and Indian people, according to a press statement issued by General Secretary of DNC Karma Duptho.
The parties emphasised on strengthening the Bhutan-India relationship, and appeal to Khurshid that any policy measures adopted by the governments of Bhutan and India should be in long term interest of the common people.
They urged India to maintain the existing arrangement and continue providing subsidy to Bhutan on essential commodities as it has been doing since the day Bhutan embarked upon the socio-economic development plan and examine the future relationship with Bhutan in the overall interest of two peoples.
According to the press statement, the memorandum states:
1. About 80,000 Bhutanese refugees have left the UNHCR organized camps in Nepal for third country resettlement. The overwhelming majority are resettled in the USA, followed by Canada and Australia. There are remaining 26,000 registered refugees in the camps and some unregistered Bhutanese refugees in India and Nepal. Many of the refugees in the camps who are unwilling to opt for third country resettlement are awaiting return in Bhutan with honor and dignity.
2. Bhutan is conducting its second “democratic” election on July 13, 2013. Though there are a number of political parties from within the country contesting in the election, the parties in exile are not permitted to participate in the election process. Three major political parties who were at the forefront of democratic movement are still living in exile. Unless these parties are allowed to return and permitted to participate in the election process the unfolding of democratic system of governance in Bhutan cannot be considered complete.
3. Despite the media hype for much talked about economic growth in Bhutan the overwhelming majority of the Bhutanese people are still poor and live in inaccessible, rural communities. The people of Bhutan had been enjoying the generous support of government of India in development assistance including access to subsidized essential commodities, namely kerosene and cooking gas. The tax refund mechanism with the Government of India and the revenue flow from India assisted ChukhaHydel Project was supporting Bhutan’s recurrent expenditures, which in turn has had been used for providing health and educational services.