Bhutan for Bhutan
By Wangcha Sangay
Bhutanese who have come down the generations of Bhutanese blood and hereditary lines may not share the fear and hate for China that Indians or even Tibetans especially those living outside would feel. And likewise, hereditary Bhutanese may also, sensitively and sentimentally, be more protective of Bhutanese sovereignty viz a viz Indian strong arm influence than the later date Bhutanese citizens. I feel inherent sentiment is kind of different from adopted or inspired dedication.
The new leadership in Nepal is denying India from carving a little Indian State for Nepalese citizens of Indian origins in southern belt of Nepal. If Nepal leaders fail then South Nepal will gradually become part of Indian Union. I expect Bhutanese democratic leaders will also resist any attempt by India to carve out southern Bhutan. Therefore, I watch the event being played out in Nepal with thumping heart because it can give an indication of the future of sovereignty of small nations.
Some might say why would a non- entity be so concerned and moreover what can a non- entity like me do. Nothing really ! I know that. But a Bhutanese can exercise at least the freedom of wishful thinking. And that is what I am doing except I say it a bit aloud.
If one thinks beyond sentiment and just blind love of being sovereign, maybe majority of common people may not need to be preoccupied with sovereignty. I wonder what the true blood line of Sikkimese living in Sikkim or Tibetans in Tibet really feel about living under a different line of rulers or political leaders. Are they economically better off or do they feel less fear or more fear of the authorities ? Do they miss the old sovereignty and the old system or are the majority of the common people in the two countries content with the changes that had evolved ?
The construction progress of Samtse to Phuentsholing road is so silent now. The Amochu hydro project has been shelved. In 1960 Bhutan could not have constructed the Thimphu Phuentsholing highway with out generous assistance from India. And today in 2015, Bhutan had to shelve the construction of the much needed Southern Highway that was funded by Asian Development Bank for ” security reasons “. Whose security is Bhutan concerned about. Many believe that the proposed Highway could have further strengthened the security of Bhutan. At least we could monitor who is entering the forests of South Bhutan: ULFA BODO Militants or Indian Soldiers through a ” South Bhutan Highway Patrol “.
Bhutan has come a long way in terms of economic and social prosperity since 1907. In terms of Bhutanese national sovereignty, what has been the tangible political progress since joining United Nations in 1971 ? In my humble mind, one giant step is the China Bhutan Border Treaty. And the other possibly even more important is the successful renegotiation of Indo Bhutan Treaty of 1949 by the Fourth King. A Treaty has value and validity when put in practice. Otherwise, it is only as valuable as the paper that records it.
True respect and reverence for a leader lies in exercising national confidence and faith in the deed accomplished by a great leader. This renegotiated Treaty was signed by the Bhutanese Fifth King and the President of India who was then the Minister of External Affairs of India. I did not know that Shri Pranab Mukherjee would become the President of India. Now that he is, this Treaty is even more significant because in a way, two Heads of Nations’ signatures stand testimony to the commitments of India and Bhutan. There should not be ifs and buts in honouring the terms of the Treaty. It was the Fourth King who renegotiated the 1949 Treaty with the Government of India. The King must have had an immediate reason and an end vision in so doing what he successfully undertook. The endeavour could not be for namesake. So why are we treating it like a namesake deed ?
I am no fan of Nepal. I hardly know the nation and her leaders. But unlike some sore throats in the Bhutanese and Indian media, I do not see the differences between Nepal and Bhutan rather the political situation affinity which terrifies me. Nepal is suffering because the leaders are resisting the partition of Nepalese nation. And when a Bhutanese News Print known for voicing in advance Bhutanese Government views, takes delight in tormenting Nepal, it is disturbing. I pray that this time it is not the actual view of the Bhutanese Government.
I took great heart in the Bhutanese Prime Minister meeting the Nepalese Delegation in New York. It would not have anything to do with the Nepal economic situation but so what. It was a good gesture similar to His Majesty’s instant heart felt deed at the time of Nepal earthquake. There is not much that Bhutan as a small nation can say or do in the Nepal India situation. The least any true Bhutanese could do is refrain from insulting the Deities of the Himalayas because just like Nepal, Bhutan, too, is dependent on the good grace of the Deities.