By Wangcha Sangay
The direct intervention of India in the internal affairs of Bhutan seems to have breached an unwritten but accepted protocol of understanding between China and India. The unpublicized but accepted protocol seems to be, ‘Tibet is Chinese internal affair and Sikkim is India’s internal affair. And let the Kingdom of Bhutan exercise her sovereign choice’.
During Bhutan’s 2nd Interim Government Term, it seems the top Bhutanese leadership was brow beaten by India to 1). Disavow the national policy of GNH under the guise of which Bhutan managed to expand its diplomatic relations and solidify its sovereign position and 2). Reverse the ongoing Sino-Bhutan progressive relation.
My suspicion is that the Indian Ambassador V.P. Haran strategized the PDP General Election campaign and that the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) fund of Rs. 5 Billion grant that realizes the PDP campaign promises was a done deal before 13th July, 2013 the General Election Day.
On Monday the 29th July, 2013, the first working day of the new Bhutanese Government, the Prime Minister of Bhutan along with his whole Cabinet ended up officially receiving Indian Ambassador V.P. Haran to Gyalwang Tshokhang the Seat of Bhutan Government. I wonder what kind of official address the Ambassador made as he reviewed the composition of the Bhutanese Cabinet. The Bhutanese media is silent so probably there was no mutual discussion to make any declaration; possibly only one sided communication. Nowhere in the world is an Ambassador officially received by a full delegation of Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister let alone on its 1st official working day. This kind of national tragic event takes place only when a conquering General demands homage and surrender from a defeated and humiliated nation. Such an act of sacrilege and betrayal of sovereignty must have had the Dharma Raja Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and the spirits of the three late Kings of Bhutan in total despair. I just can’t imagine what it must have been like to the two living Kings.
India cannot publicly or privately tell China to keep away from Bhutan but India has showed every and all distaste for progressive Sino-Bhutan ties. So Bhutan must be under immense Indian pressure to blunt any progressive overtures from China. And with Jigmi Yoezer Thinley bundled out to seclusion, India has her way. But it seems India was quite unprepared by Chinese reaction. It seems that the famed Indian diplomat corps now lives upon day to day instruction of their political bosses. Otherwise this would not have happened.
Today on 8th August, 2013, Indian Security Advisor accompanied by Indian Foreign Secretary is arriving in Thimphu and according to media reports; they will be holding meetings with Bhutanese leadership including His Majesty the King. I guess they will also meet His Majesty the 4th King, the Father of GNH philosophy which India and India influenced Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has rejected as being an “empty slogan” to quote Sanjay Kumar in ‘The Diplomat’.
Under Indian pressure, Bhutan has declared its hostility towards China and it won’t be long before China officially seeks a clarification from the Bhutanese Cabinet whose composition the Indian Ambassador V.P. Haran recently reviewed and probably approved. The visit of the heavy delegation from India could be another exercise of political and economic clout that India reigns supreme in Bhutan.
China, it seems, according to the major Indian Newspapers, has already conveyed, unofficially, her thoughts to Government of India. China seems to be very serious about the breach of the unwritten but accepted protocol and her seriousness can be gauged by the particular sentences to quote, “As a country located between China and India, Bhutan serves as a buffer and is of critical strategic importance to the Siliguri corridor, a narrow stretch of land (known as chicken’s neck) that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India. The corridor is considered vulnerable bottleneck for India’s national security. Delhi worries that China will send troops to the corridors if a China-India military clash breaks out”.
I accept that for the coming 5 years, the fate of Bhutan rest largely in the hands of the 2nd Government. I have nothing to say since the die has been cast. But as a Bhutanese subject, I beg to exercise my humble right to appeal for a national kidu to His Majesty the King. His Majesty has the constitutional responsibility and the hereditary obligation to ensure the sovereignty and the security of the Kingdom.
Your Majesty, the General Election of Bhutan saw how opportunistic an arrogant giant neighbour can be. And yet because of so many paramount reasons, we can never as of today prefer China to India. India will have to remain our most associated neighbour. However, please be aware of tri-colour canopy that is in the process of replacing the yellow and orange over the Dragon Throne.
I also feel that Jigmi Yoezer Thinley in words of Bhutanese proverb is a bird in the basket and a beef in the pot. He cannot be of any danger to national interests and for that matter no other Bhutanese Prime Ministers on their own can also pose any threat to national goal as long as the Throne remains upright and alert. India’s antipathy to JYT is that he left the Indian leaders dumb founded by the way side as he gently but surely carved an international space for Bhutan under the canopy of GNH, a philosophy that illustrated the loving wish and goodness of a King for his people and nation. India no longer seems to portray itself as a genuine friend of Bhutan.
GNH cannot, on its own, be an omni-solution to Bhutan’s employment problems, essential supply needs and rupee shortages etc but if any unbiased visitor is to walk through the offices, urban homes and rural homes of Bhutan and India, then that visitor will comprehend the substance of happiness and relevance of GNH to both Bhutanese and world society.
Several decades back on an issue of allowing individual tourists to Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonpo Dawa Tsering told me that we have to be mindful of undesirable impacts of individual foreign tourists on the security of the Kingdom. I had approached the Hon’ble Foreign Minister regarding visa procedure after getting HRH approval to permit individual tourist visit. To allay Lyonpo’s concerns, I submitted that more than any Bhutanese, the Royal House would be concerned about the dangers to national security and Her Royal Highness the Representative of His Majesty the King did not feel that escorted individual foreign tourists under a trained Bhutanese tour guide would pose any such danger. His Excellency then accorded approval for individual tourist visa. My view of those days has not altered. All Bhutanese must take a leap of faith in the workings of our Kings and Deities because more than any Bhutanese, the Bhutanese Kings and Deities would have the foremost national interests and well being of the Kingdom.
I have expressed my unreserved views not for the Throne as such but mainly for the fellow Bhutanese to whom I appeal for calm and absolute national interests not Political Party dividends and to people of India and Indian Media among whom there seems to exists due regards for the limited aspirations of a tiny neighbour and very sincere friend. A Country that has produced great and greater Kings successively would have, I believe, more JYTs in the making and India will have to adjust to this reality. Let Bhutan co-exist along your side with sovereign dignity and not under your thumb. In India’s re-attempt to convert Bhutan into a Protectorate State (such an attempt was made during the young reign of the 4th King at the time of annexing Sikkim), there lies an unmistakable danger both for Bhutan and India. The 22 KMs Siliguri chicken-neck stretch of a land might turn into a blood path of Sino-India conflagration. Such scenario does not do any good to anybody especially to Bhutan, China and India. Do not force providence for providence at times can turn out to be wrathful.