One does wonder the status of Indo-Bhutan after the visit of the high level delegation. When India sends such a top level diplomat, it shows seriousness of further aggression or strengthening respectable equation in relationship. I pray that it is the latter.
I hope that Hon’ble diplomat from the family of India’s most distinguished career diplomats has correctly gauged the depth of the wounds and felt that it was worthy of his time and effort to begin a healing process. And I hope he agrees that in Bhutan’s sovereignty and genuine friendship of Bhutanese of all walks of life, lays the ultimate national interest and the security of India.
Bhutanese people are said to be like the hill people of India in nature. Indians living in the plains say the hill people are very gullible but they over look the other trait of the hill people which is being very sensitive and therefore prone to react in the most unpredictable manner. The over sight is understandable because being gullible usually refers to matters of commerce and not war. It can apply to the status of hydro projects in Bhutan funded through grants and loans from India. The grants, the loans plus some more are all taken back by Indian Corporations and manpower because Bhutan just does not have the technical expertise, the required skilled and unskilled manpower and everything needed for the hydro projects are imported from India including food. And in the end the electrical power that is produced is also trans-shipped to India at a price dictated by Indian Authorities.
It takes India 5 years to complete a mega-hydro project in Bhutan. The same project cannot be done in a generation in India and costs multiplies of that incurred in Bhutan because of so many party politics, local politics, national politics, environmental politics, centre and state politics and all of such forces swimming in the wells of bottomless corruptions. Our main national resource is harnessed to service India and in return we do not even get a fair price for the sacrifice. Instead we get a sack of goodies called subsidies which is converted to weapons of threat or honeycomb bribes depending on political whims. The saying, “show them a smile and you can have their teeth” so appropriately describes the one side Indo-Bhutan relation.
Till date successive Indian governments never felt that Bhutan being a neighbour under their thumb warranted the attention of a Menon type of a personality who in preserving the long term interests of India would also by tradition of Menon family nature and quality, would carve a fair deal for Bhutan too. The Hon’ble Shivshankar Menon visited Bhutan in his capacity as Security Advisor to India; therefore India’s security would be his top priority. However, he has the proven caliber to make up his own mind and not cow tow an advance dictated official order. The wisdom of fair diplomacy runs in his family blood. And I hope that after the visit here, he will tell New Delhi that Indian northern border would be more secure if a less hostile China borders the Bhutanese Kingdom. It is absolutely necessary for China and Bhutan to sign the border agreement and establish diplomatic ties. And even if Bhutan receives economic assistance from China as a result of improved ties, India would always remain the number one preferred neighbour upon whom Bhutan’s dependence can never diminish. The Indo-Bhutan military tie cannot be affected and both China and India will have fewer reasons to question each other’s motives. On the other hand if India frightens Bhutanese and keeps bullying Bhutan, some day Bhutan will throw itself entirely into the Chinese arm. No Bhutanese would prefer it but at times even a fragile woman opts to jump out of the window than be raped continuously in her bedroom.
India can do what she likes with the present Bhutanese government and for this very reason it will do well to her image and Bhutan’s sovereignty if genuine consideration is shown. The recent changes in the hierarchy of External Affairs of India could have taken place for various reasons but still Bhutanese may have a reason to hope for better prospects. However, the trust deficit will continue to prevail as long as the cloak and dagger Ambassador V.P. Haran is in Bhutan casting his long shadow over the Bhutanese Cabinet. Nothing is sacred to this Indian emissary planted in Bhutan. To illustrate my point let’s say that both Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Ambassador V.P. Haran agree that Bilateral Agreements signed between India and Bhutan are ‘untouchable’ unless both signatories agree to amend or term of Agreement expires.
However, the understanding of the term ‘untouchable’ would be differently understood and therefore differently applied. The Hon’ble Shivshankar Menon in line with the honourable ways of his fore fathers, I believe, would interpret the term ‘untouchable’ as something very sacred and a national commitment that must be honoured unless a state of war is declared between the two signatory nations. However, to Ambassador V.P. Haran the term ‘untouchable’ maybe understood as in caste which people from upper caste can trash anytime in line with the exigency of the situation. That was why he told the gullible Interim Advisor Dasho Karma Ura that the Chukha power rate negotiated by the King of Bhutan with Indian Prime Minister and the 10 year trade and commerce Agreement valid till 2016, are invalidated by the Government of India. To such an emissary, nothing is sacred. Therefore, Bhutan can only feel safe when the Ambassador is recalled or a change of heart or change of seat takes place in New Delhi.
As a result of recent combined Indo-Bhutan game of politics, a terrible price has been extracted from Bhutan in terms of its international status as a sovereign GNH nation and the dignity of the 1st democratic leader. The Kingdom will never be the same and the Indo-Bhutan status will keep vacillating unless career diplomats like Menons decide to exercise greater sensitivity to the aspiration of the common Bhutanese people. Regardless of the prevailing forces of Indo-Bhutan politics that favour money for sovereignty, there are, I believe, quite a number of Bhutanese who prefer to have the dragon Throne rest on a Bhutanese rock even if barren than upon the rich sand dune that India appears to be offering to the King of Bhutan. Palden Drukpa Lha Gyalo!