Saturday, March 22, 2014

Personal Perspectives on Current Events – The 7th Series

The Bhutan Education City

Is Education City a closed chapter, I ask myself? So much has been said and varying views expressed. It is not fruitful any longer to reflect on the past, the stands of DPT and PDP formed Governments, the role of DHI and Land Commission nor the validity and responsibility of the high powered Education City Board and the Education City Act.

What is important and relevant is what happens here after. What does Bhutanese authority intend to do so that all the efforts, time and money invested up till now in the project is harnessed for the benefit of the nation as a whole?

There is a rumor that the 1000 acre area of Bhutan Education City may be converted to Bhutan Film City. I would have discounted such an idea but rumors in Bhutan have disturbingly proved true in the past. Moreover Dasho Ugen Tsechup Dorji has been closely associated with Bhutan Film Association and he is quite influential. So the rumor cannot be just brushed off as simple political sarcasm. The last big news I heard of Bhutan Film City was about identifying a large tract of land in Paro (way above Ta-Dzong) for Bhutan Film City and commitment of required fund from some sources for developing the area. So there will be a much desired Bhutan Film City somewhere in Western Bhutan without misusing the Education City investment.

Now regarding the utilization of Education City in the most appropriate way i.e for the education purpose of the nation could be achieved by transferring the project under the Royal University of Bhutan. The Nation needs many more colleges to absorb the class XII pass outs. RUB could have two or even three colleges at the 1000 acre Bhutan Education City site. The goals of Bhutan Education City could be met in terms of: a)  expanding national capacity for tertiary education  b)  harnessing Bhutanese students presently compelled to study in colleges in India and  c)  saving very scarce rupee resources. Moreover it is good investment for developing and shaping the direction of the young Bhutanese generation. As for improving the quality of education, I feel it should be a national goal covering all the colleges and schools not just a particular institution installed in an artificially created elite location.

The main disagreement regarding the present Bhutan Education City project is not the education goals and objectives of the project. It is the issue of leasing land to foreign entities initially for 30 years and then renewable twice over. This means 90 years which is comparable to the 99 years lease of Hong Kong and Macau.  More than 100 years ago, China was a vast but weak nation. The 99 years lease of Chinese sovereign land of Hong Kong and Macau by Britain and Portugal was forced upon China.

Such long term lease has huge multi-dimension implications on national sovereignty in terms of security, immigration, social and religious issues, political and economic influence etc. So it is natural for a true sovereign Leader or a sovereign agency to exercise anxiety in regards to surrendering of land in the heart of the Kingdom to foreign entities for a period of 90 years. In fact all Bhutanese should share such an anxiety.

Bhutan need not surrender another 1000 acres of heart land of Bhutanese Capital City to foreign entity for 90 years. I think Bhutan already has enough of long term foreign residency settlements occupying huge land areas scattered all over the Kingdom. We can do without leasing out an additional 1000 acres under foreign domination.

By the way, the name of the Education City area ‘Wang-Sisina’ really had me misdirected. I could not get the fix on the spot until I saw the fresh cutting of the motor road on the hill sides of the Dangkala Range that drops to the confluence of Paro and Thimphu Rivers. The hill sides used to be totally barren but over the decades, conservation and afforestation efforts of the Bhutan Forest Department had nursed an admirable crop of young blue pine trees that gradually covered the vast area. The education project will harm the natural vegetation but if it helps in nourishing young Bhutanese minds, I could live with this kind of barter exchange.

Khushwant Singh of India.

I came to know of him as Editor of Illustrated Weekly of India. He is known to be a man of independent thoughts and wits. I always thought he had a colorful flair even for Sikh standard. With his departure from this world that was home to him for 99 years, I felt a sense of deep loss as I watched the NDTV coverage of his death. For a man who never shied away from speaking his mind or controversial subjects, he passed away peacefully in his sleep on the day of World Happiness. What a beautiful way to say good bye to 99 years of worldly chaos and colors. Illustrated Weekly was part of my little world that included News week and Times Magazines, Readers Digest and later on India Today. I really enjoyed reading and learning from these journals. Things are different now. There is a flood of social media and 24 hours TV channels. Today one has access to so much information, knowledge and news that require so little investment in terms of time and money. And yet we seemed to be rather un-informed these days on important issues.

On each occasion of passing away of such high caliber figure, one mourns not just for the person but for the character, the conscience and kind of life that the person had represented. May the soul of respected Khushwant Singh-ji rest in peace!

Bhutan Happiness Day

The 20th March, 2014, International Happiness Day adopted by the General Assembly of United Nations and which in fact is a tribute to the happiness doctrine of King Jigme SIngye Wangchuck, passed fleetingly away, almost unnoticed by the general public of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

UN officials, Foreign Diplomats and Cabinet Ministers of Bhutan did light butter lamps at the National Memorial Chorten built in memory of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. May be for Bhutan Happiness is meant to be a memory of the past as is the memory of His Majesty the Third King and Father of modern Bhutan. I personally would have preferred the Happiness Day Butter Lamp Tribute to have taken place at Tashichho Dzong Kye-rena before the altar of Lord Buddha - the guiding light for the nation towards harmony and happiness. In the decades to come I hope that this International Day of Happiness would remind Bhutanese all over the world about the great King who put the wellbeing of his people above all other achievements and light a butter lamp as a symbol of peace and harmony.

The Ukraine Crisis

This is my third perspective on Ukraine troubles. Crimea has voted to be part of Russia and the Russian Duma was quick to favorably respond. President Putin has signed the documents making Crimea part of Russia. The Russian Gateway to Black Sea and thereby to Mediterranean and other warm waters has been secured. As a citizen of a small Kingdom between two giant nations, I have my self-interest national reasons to be wary of Crimea being part of Russia even though 97% of voters in Crimea demonstrated such a desire through the ballot box. At the same time it was predictable because Russia would never tolerate a hostile Ukraine controlling her access to the waters in the South. 

The West led by USA, UK and France must be stunned and dismayed at the outcome of their coup conducted through the Ukraine Parliament that resulted in the unconstitutional ouster of the elected President of Ukraine. For all the information gadgets, intelligence apparatus and hundreds of highly paid political pundits/advisors, the West did not foresee that their goal to create pro-west Ukraine would result in them handing over Crimea to Russia on a democratic platter. 97% of Crimea voters voted to join Russia rather than be subjugated to pro-west Ukraine government.

This Ukraine fiasco of the West must be a miscalculation that is equivalent to West influenced India under Nehru attempting to expand North-Eastern Frontier boundary in 1962 banking upon China to remain submissive. China was not submissive in 1962 and Russia showed no fear in securing her Mediterranean gateway this time.

Western media has attempted to stoke up Cold War era fears by alluding that Russia would not stop just at Crimea but would attempt to expand further. However, I do not think that the general people of both Eastern and Western Europe believe in such possibilities. Russia simply wants to secure independent access to the world waters. She would not want more land along with more social, political and economic problems of her neighbors.

At the UN, the western powers attempted to censure the Crimean referendum but Russia vetoed the move and China refused to participate. And now even India the old Ally of Russia but under new rapprochement process with USA, has refused to back the symbolic sanctions against Russia. So the West hyped propaganda about isolation of Russia is rather far-fetched.

Economically about 35 billion dollars of foreign investment moved away from Russia and 240 billion dollars of Russian money moved away from the West and America to safer Nations. So even economically the West suffered more for their Ukraine coup if statistics given by the media are facts. I think the Ukraine crisis will peter off and very soon things would be as usual except the change in Crimea status.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Personal Perspective on Current Events - The 6th Series


John Kerry states that the incursion by Russian troops into Crimea is an “incredible act of aggression”. That may describe the one sided view of the western world. However, the attempt by the American led western countries to create a hostile UKRAINE on the doorstep of Russia is an incredible blunder of Third World War possibility. Russia is defending her sovereign security and Black Sea route. It is not a choice intervention in Ukraine affairs. The grizzly Bear cannot back down when it comes to Russian sovereignty.

The CNN mouthpiece Fareed Zakaria teamed up with Madame Albright and Brezezinski to paint President Putin of Russia as Hitler and called on USA and NATO forces to confront Russian forces. They further called on China to keep off from backing Russia. Fortunately President Obama is not controlled by war mongering anti-Russian lobbyist in the Democratic Party and those in the Republican Party. This two-term American Black President has a deep sense of responsibility to world peace and to the welfare of the common citizens of America who elected him as the 1st Black President of America against all odds. Therefore, in-spite of American media and former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor plus possibly many others calling upon America and NATO to declare war on Russia, President Obama would exercise prudence.

It was easy to get NATO involved in Afghanistan and Iraq but Russia is altogether a very different scenario. America may succeed in getting U.K, France and Italy to co-operate but Germany may never again venture into another war with Russia. Once beaten is twice shy but twice beaten is forever wary. And without the economic and military might of Germany, NATO is just another over extended and ineffective American force in Europe.

A war in Ukraine between Russia and NATO forces will rope in South Korea, Japan and Australia who share security pacts with America which of-course is the NATO leader. Under such a scenario, China cannot remain neutral. Geo political factors would compel China to put its forces on full alert and extend economic and logistical assistance to Russia. A defeated or weakened Russia exposes China to the risk of western hegemony. It will be a World War III begun in Ukraine.

The solution to Ukraine crisis is not NATO forces. Crimea will become autonomous state with its own independent foreign and defense portfolio. The unity of Ukraine will suffer as did that of Yugoslavia and Sudan because the West chose to encourage break away groups. A general election will have to be called for the rest of Ukraine and a government which is neither hostile nor pro Russia or Europe need to take over the reign of the country. Ukraine does not have to be a war zone to settle the supremacy of the West or the East. The people of Ukraine need economic assistance from both Russia and the West.

It is not possible to isolate Russia economically although the attempt is being made by America and her allies. America is under trillions of dollar debt. And except for Germany, most NATO allies are in economic doldrums. Neither G-8 nor G-20 and for that matter even United Nations, without Russia and China, are ineffective world groups. May the people of Ukraine and Crimea be free from international pawning games and find peace among themselves. 

The Politics of TIT for TAT the UPA way, India

There is a way in the political system of India to bypass the Parliament to put a Bill into effect. That bypass is known as the ordinance route. The government can submit a Bill in the form of an ordinance for assent of the President. The approved ordinance then becomes immediate law though the same has to be later passed in the next parliament session.

Last time Rahul Gandhi tore down the ordinance on criminally charged Netas that was submitted by ManMohan Singh Cabinet for the President’s approval. So the proposed ordinance was withdrawn. This time Rahul Gandhi wanted the UPA Cabinet to put the anti-corruption Bills through the ordinance route. It was to enhance his Mr. Clean image, the same objective that he had sought to achieve when he publicly tore the last ordinance Bill on Netas.

The Indian Prime Minister is ageing and is on his way out from the UPA Prime Minister post. He does not have his own grass root base. However, India’s Mr. Honest seems to have his own reserve of influence and integrity. This time the UPA cabinet under Prime Minister ManMohan Singh has refused to play the Rahul tune. The Cabinet has rejected the ordinance route for anti-corruption Bills. The 10 year term Prime Minister ManMohan Singh may go down in Indian History as the intellectual with potential greatness shackled in by mother and son Congress high command. However, he seems determined to put a stamp of individuality in the last days of his Prime Minister-ship as he had done in the nuclear deal.

UPA especially Congress Party sits on a very precarious disharmony between the senior leadership led by ManMohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues and the young Turks led by Rahul Gandhi backed by Sonia Gandhi.

The Gandhi name is a very important landmark in the political arena of India. However, over the years that landmark has been badly eroded with charges of corruption, nepotism and insensitivity. It has reached a stage where UPA was reluctant to identify its 2014 election with Rahul Gandhi as Prime Ministerial candidate. BJP said that a mother is instinctively not ready to sacrifice her child for a lost cause. However, the real behind the scene reason could be a lack of resounding endorsement by diverse UPA leaders in the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi chose to remain a shadow super Prime Minister and refused to join ManMohan Singh cabinet. The UPA cabinet resigned itself to this arrangement until Rahul Gandhi publicly humiliated the Prime Minister who was on official tour to USA and lambasted his cabinet over the corrupted Netas ordinance. And in no time, the discord between UPA allies and among Congress leaders widened. The situation suffered more because there was no longer the firm and respected wisdom of Shri Pranab Mukherjee to soothe over wounded egos of allies or senior colleagues. Shri Pranab Mukherjee is the President of India and can no longer play the cementing figure role for Congress, UPA and with Opposition Parties.

Lately the retired top brass Army Officers have joined the political fray. They say that they wish to steer the national ship to proper course through political participation. In India, the Institution of the Army represents the highest standard and integrity of India as a nation. Until this year, there never was a case of en-mass entry of former top brass into politics. Many have joined BJP and some would join Congress or other parties. However, they do not intent to extend their service of bondage to their once political masters. Their goal is to change the political standard of the political parties so that national interest will prevail in matters of governance, thus very truly serving the nation.

I wish well the new political forces arising in India. May the people of India as well as the neighbouring countries benefit from this new found Indian national sense of integrity and fairness!