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BHUTAN TODAY  

BHUTAN TODAY  

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(JANUARY- FEBRUARY) 2006

Vol. VIII

No.1

Monarch and Reign.

 

 

 

 

 











First King
Ugyen Wangchuck

(December 1907 - August 1926

Second King
Jigme Wangchuck

(August 1926 - March 1952
Third King
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck
(March 1952 - July 1972
Fourth King
Jigme Singye Wangchuck
(July 1972 - will abdicate in 2008
Fifth King
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
(will be enthrone in 2008)

Buddhist Monarch
Rongthong Kunley Dorji

Several historical and remarkable changes took place in Bhutan in 2005.

Bhutan's first ever draft constitution was unveiled to public setting up the foundation for the eventual democratization of Bhutan. An absurd clause within, capped the age for the King's retirement at 65 years. On the 17th of December, 2005, during the 98th National Day celebrations at Tashi Yangtse, the King dramatically announced that he would abdicate throne in favor of the Crown Prince in 2008, when Bhutan formally adopted the Constitution and instituted a parliamentary system of government. All these events summed up the remarkable year.

The institutionalizing of parliamentary democracy and the Crown Prince, as the first Constitutional Monarch in Bhutan, brings back a feeling of nostalgia, concurrently provides a feeling of empowerment.

The Bhutanese monarchy descends directly from the Buddhist saint, Terton Pema Lingpa. However, those unaware of Bhutanese traditions are projecting it as otherwise, after finding out that Pema Lingpa's grandfather (who was of course a lama and descendant of Nyon Rig, a noble family lineage) was a blacksmith by profession. [Source: Michael Aries, Raven Crown of Bhutan]. Firstly, a religious Guru imparts various skills to disciples and other people in order to earn their livelihood. Secondly, it is customary for a family lineage to be stressed after the lama. The noble family called Choje (Lord of religion), Dung-jue (descendant) emerged from this lineage and is revered.

Jigme Namgyel, father of Ugyen Wangchuck [the First King of Bhutan] was born of Pila, a descendant of the Dungkhar Choje nobility. At the age of 28 years, he rose to the position of the Trongsa Penlop. The jurisdiction of the Trongsa Penlop then spread over the provinces of Trongsa, Mangde, Kurtoe, Mongar, Yangtse, Tashigang, and Dungsam Do Sum (Presently Pema Gatshel and Samdrup Jongkhar) and was collectively known as Sharcho Khlo Tsip Gye.

For the next 30 years he reigned supreme and began to consolidate the position of his family by appointing many among them into the ranks of the administration in the East. While in West, he slowly consolidated his presence by appointing the family members of Pala (his uncle) into the administration. It is pertinent to mention here that even though the Deb Raja (political head) was present at the time, Jigme Namgyel was the de-facto leader in taking all binding decision concerning Bhutan. He eventually became the 48th Deb Raja. He then installed his son, Ugyen Wangchuck as the 21st Paro Penlop at the age of 17 years.

Ugyen Wangchuck became the 13 th Trongsa Penlop at 22 years and appointed his cousin as the Paro Penlop and abolished the post of the Jakar Penlop. Thence, most appointments into the administration were reserved for his family members and those loyal to him. The posts of the Penlops also became hereditary and this practice was prevalent until 3rd King.

Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned as Bhutan's 1st King in 1907, at the age of 45 years, in Punakha, finally bringing stability in Bhutan. He passed away at Bumthang Thinley Rabtan Palace at the age of 67 in retreat.
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His son, Jigme Wangchuck at 22 years was enthroned as the 2nd King at Punakha. During his reign, there wasn't much initiative taken towards the development of the country or towards enhancing the living standards of common citizen. Yet, his contribution is no less than that of his father as he protected the sovereignty and independence of Bhutan at the most critical period during the 2nd world war and the subsequent cold war. He passed away in 1952 and was succeeded by Jigme Dorji Wangchuck as the 3rd King of Bhutan.

After ascending the throne, the 3rd King abolished the practice of family hereditary appointments, slaves and serfdom. He also enacted the Thrimzhung Chhenpo, instituted the National Assembly and the Royal Advisory Council. Bhutan also became a member of the United Nations in 1971 and joined several international organizations and alliances. The 3rd King commanded that the King and people would govern the country jointly, and coined the phrase, "Gyal Bhang Zungdel". Furthermore, he ordered that, in the absence of the King and in case of the Crown Prince being a minor, a Privy Council consisting of representatives from the Dratsang Lhentshog (Monastic Body), the Lhengye Zhungtsho(Cabinet), the Lhodoi Tsokde (Royal Advisory Council) and a member of the Royal Family would govern the country until the Crown Prince attained 21 years of age. Even ministerial posts were subject to vote in the National Assembly every five years. He introduced the socio-economic development as the central theme of the state's policy, and modern development activities were swiftly implemented with utmost dedication. The 3rd King passed away at young age in 1972 leaving many Bhutanese dreams unfulfilled. His contribution to Bhutan is immense and he rightly deserves to be called "The Father of Modern Bhutan".

The present King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck was 15th Trongsa Penlop before he ascended the throne as the 4th King of Bhutan at a tender age of 17 years at Thimphu, in 1972. Coronation was held in June 2, 1974. With the exception of some political problems in 1974, the Bhutanese people enjoyed relative peace and prosperity up to 1984. During those glorious years, His Majesty always double-checked or sometimes even triple-checked the complaints of the people. However, later, decisions were massively influenced or mishandled by a few in his coterie, and thus the country was gradually engulfed by one crisis after another.

When the Royal Government of Bhutan implemented the 1958 citizenship Act [that was basically meant for non-nationals] without any basic amendment in 1985, several thousand non-Bhutanese were found to be residing in the country illegally, including thousands of Indians from Bihar, Assam and West Bengal. Latter on, many workers were admitted back to Bhutan with legitimate work permits. During those testing times, the appeal of 32 Lhotsampa civil servants to the King was ill-timed and their appeal for citizenship to all Nepali origin, irrespective of non-nationals status, had a devastating effect. Because the citizenship crisis was not addressed, a revolt of sorts surfaced in the 1990s and many Lhosampas were also misled with false promises. This led to a refugee amalgamation at Jhapa, Nepal. In spite of no headway in finding a solution to the Bhutanese refugee issue for the last 15 years, we still believe that it is never too late for Bhutan to resolve this issue and after the 17th December, 2005, we are hoping that this outstanding issue will be solved before 2008.

The Druk National Congress has always demanded for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan under Constitutional Monarchy, and the Constitution is acknowledged as a stepping stone towards achieving this. This will, in the long run, work as a tool to ensure the independence of the judiciary, safeguard the rights of people, and ameliorate the suffering of the underprivileged.

However, there are shortcomings, which will have to be overcome, some now and some in the future. Systems of governance evolve, guided by necessity and driven by the aspirations of the people, and need continuous improvements in relation to changing times. While welcoming the draft Constitution, we have also submitted our brief comments entitled, "Draft Constitution of Bhutan: Suggestion for a Better Future".

The path chosen by His Majesty to facilitate the adoption of the Constitution, establish parliamentary democracy and abdicate throne in favour of the Crown Prince, is worthy of being reciprocated by overlooking all the deeds of the past. His action is in accordance with Buddhist philosophy. Being a practicing Buddhist like me, naturally my respect and devotion to King has increased manifold.
His Majesty has repeatedly informed the public that it is the duty of the Crown Prince to uphold the Constitution and finally informed the whole nation on 17th December, 2005 that he would retire from Crown duties and the responsibilities of the Throne would be delegated to the Crown Prince in 2008. At the same time, Bhutan would be celebrating a 100 years of Institution of Monarchy.

Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is born to His Majesty and Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck on February 21, 1980. He had his formal education in Lungtenzampa and Yanchenphug schools, Thimphu and received the "Driglam Namsha" Bhutanese traditional social etiquettes education under the close supervision of His Majesty the King and inculcated the habits of graciousness and kind natured attitude.

Further, he was exposed to an environment of global learning without losing touch with the traditions and disciplines of the royal household, the rich religious and cultural heritage of Bhutan, and the current realities that the kingdom is going through. Growing up in Bhutan and studying in Bhutanese schools, His Royal Highness developed a close rapport with Bhutanese youth and came to know first hand their concerns and their aspirations for the future. He also took extensive tours of democratic countries around the world to learn the successful functioning of democratic way of life.

| His Majesty appointed him as a 16 th Choetse Penlop or Trongsa Penlop on October 21, 2004 at Tashichhodzong and the traditional investiture ceremony was held on October 31, 2004 at Trongsa.

Above all, His Royal Highness' complete lack of arrogance, haughtiness and trapping that usually accompany with Royal is appreciative. During a consultation meeting at Lhuentse to discuss the draft Constitution, he said, "while I am his oldest son - a Crown Prince - I have never in my life thought of myself as a Prince. I have always been, first and foremost, an ordinary subject whose only duty is to serve my King and country".

With the same faith and expectation showered by His Majesty on the Crown Prince that he will truthfully discharge his duties, the Bhutanese people too have the same expectation. The Druk National Congress is fully committed in supporting him to work for peace, prosperity, harmony and happiness in Bhutan.

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Rapt Attention: Refugees listening to IBFS delegate speeches at Mechi Bridge, Indo-Nepal border.


Soldiarity: Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society Delegaes at Mechi Bridge, Indo-Nepal Boarder. Help: Bhutanese refugees urging continued International support and solidarity for amicable solution


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Role of India is Imperative for Solving Refugees' Issue: IBFS

17th Dec, Siliguri, West Bengal: Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, a registered society in India campaigning for the amicable solution to Bhutanese refugees issue and also for democracy in Bhutan expressed the view that the Role of India is imperative for finding lasting solution to Bhutanese refugee issue while addressing several thousand Bhutanese refugees at Mechi Bridge, Indo-Nepal border. Satyagraha for Repatriation and National Reconciliation was organized under the banner of Bhutanese Representative for Refugee Repatriation Committee (BRRRC) with support from Druk National Congress, Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP), and the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society.

Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society's delegation led by Society's President, Shri Satya Prakash Malaviya , a former Union minister reached the Mechi bridge at 3 pm and addressed the assembled refugees. He was accompanied by Shri Ramesh Sharma, Shri Virendra Mohiley, Shri Rajiv Agrawal, Shri Vijay Gupta, Shri Rakesh Malviya, Shri L.V.K Sharma, Shri Herilal Malviya and Dr. V.K Dixit. Shri Mohan Tamang and Shri Karma Duptho represented the BNDP and DNC respectively.

Malaviya remarked that 17th December is National Day of Bhutan and also the 6th Foundation Day of Society and members of the society are happy to celebrate the auspicious occasion among refugees. He also spoke that the lingering Bhutanese refugee issue is affecting the existing friendly relations between Bhutan and India.

"It is important that role of India is a must to resolve the protracted Bhutanese refugee issue at one way or other", said Shri Malaviya.

Malaviya further added that Bhutan and Bhutanese people immediately need parliamentary democracy and representative government and Constitutional monarchy.

Earlier, Mr. Y. P Adhikari read out an appeal letter by BRRRC addressed to Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. He handed the letter to Shri S. P. Malaviya to handover the appeal letter and apprise the Prime Minister.

Shri Ramesh Sharma, Gandhian and Secretary of Society expounded the non-violence teachings of Mahatma Gandhi to refugees and asked all the young boys to forgive the police personnel who lathi charged them in early hours causing injuries to few. He also reminded the police and administrators that refugees are like their own brothers and sisters and deserve the respect befitting the dignity of human beings and brotherly treatment. While applauding the refugees for taking the peaceful measure like satyagraha to redress their problem, he also reminded them that one shouldn't be disillusioned or disheartened if it takes considerable time to accomplish the goals. He presented several historical anecdotes of Indian Independence struggle to enlighten the dampened spirit of refugees and to inspire them.

Rajman Gurung, refugee said, "We are united as of now and expect that our united voice will be heard by Government of India".

Shri Virendra Mohiley, hailing from Allahabad, expressed that solidarity of Allahabad people is with refugees in their pursuit to repatriate back to Bhutan in honor and dignity. He was pained and saddened to see that the plights of refugees have not changed a bit for last five years since his first visit to camps in 2000.

With the assurance from Shri Satya Prakash Malaviya that refugee's voice will be definitely brought to the notice of Government of India, the refugees went back to their camps with positive outlook and brightened spirit.

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Shri Lhomon Ngagyur Nyingma Welcomes Draft Constitution

Shri Lhomon Ngagyur Nyingma (Buddhist Welfare Association) wrote a letter to His Majesty, Jigme Singye Wangchuck welcoming the unveiling of the draft Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.


Pema Tendzin, Vice-President, said, "Though Article 3, safeguards, in particular, the Kargyupa tradition, including making the institution eligible to receive funds and other facilities from the State, there is no reference to the Nyingmapa tradition, even though the First Schedule of the Draft does mention that 'the orange half of the National Flag personifies religious practice: the spiritual power of the Buddhist doctrines manifest in the Kargyupa and Nyingmapa sects.' Though there is a clear mention, as per the Kargyupa tradition, of the hierarchy and the system of appointment of the Je Khenpo and the four Lopons of the Dratsang, it is not defined for Nyingmapa sects." Further, the significance of "Ka-Nying Zungdel", the practice of the Kargyupa and Nyingmapa traditions as one, is historical and continues to be the basic fabric of Bhutanese faith. Therefore, he appeals His Majesty to amend Article 3 and consider Ka-Nying Zungdel as the spiritual heritage of Bhutan.


Self-initiative for Self-verification: R.K Dorji

Panitanki, Siliguri 17th Dec, 2005: Vide a message sent through an emissary, Mr. Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President of Druk National Congress, called upon the refugees gathered at Mechi Bridge (Indo-Nepal Border) to take self-initiative for self-verification. He said that the Royal Government of Bhutan's priority for many years has revolved around the issue of nationals and non-nationals. Therefore, the responsibility of identifying nationals from non-nationals, doesn't rest in the arbitrary authority of Royal Government of Bhutan solely. Instead, genuine Bhutanese nationals have the right to take the self-initiative for self-verification.

Mr. Dorji said he believes that such an initiative will uproot the malicious intention of few non-nationals and would create a conducive environment in finding lasting solution to the protracted refugee issue.

He added, "If some refugee wishes not to repatriate, then nationals should get higher priority for benefits (or compensation) at the time of local integration or third country resettlement. Even those non-Bhutanese who were living in Bhutan prior to refugee problems in early 1990 should have second best priority"

He further appealed to Lhosampas leaders to develop a peaceful, pragmatic and rational mechanism to solve the refugee issue amicably, and at the earliest.

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Chief Justice Gimmicks.

During the discussions on the draft Constitution at Thimphu, one speaker commented on Article 3, that the spiritual heritage of Bhutan should be specified as Drukpa Kargyu and Nyingma schools, instead of generalizing it as Buddhism. The Chief Justice, Sonam Tobgye, reacting to this, informed the gathering that it would not be advisable to mention the different sects of Buddhism because there are also other religious sects in Bhutan. The Chief Justice's answer shows that the Royal Government of Bhutan is still not in a position to accept and recognize the Nyingmapa tradition as a part of the spiritual heritage of Bhutan. It is required from RGOB to protect and preserve Kargyupa and Nyingmapa or Ka Nying Zungdel tradition, a rich spiritual heritage, handed down by forefather. Moreover, a fundamental right [Article 7 (3)] guarantees the right to freedom of religion to every citizen and thus enabling every Bhutanese to practice any other religion including other sects of Buddhism.

At Pema Gatshal, when one woman from Dungmin said that the appointment of the Je Khenpo, under Article 3, did not specify when and how the Je Khenpo would retire. The Chief Justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, said "with the example shown by His Majesty the King himself, the cardinal principle enshrined in the Constitution was 65 years. His Majesty had conveyed the message to all leaders that lust for power and money and self-preservation was a disservice to the nation." This remark was unnecessary as the Constitution clearly states the separation of State from the Clergy. The post of the Je Khenpo doesn't warrant any age limit because the clergy already has their own established system.

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Poor Feedback?

After observing the public deliberations on the draft Constitution in ten districts, the Druk National Congress expressed disappointment. Despite the fact that there is no freedom of speech and expression in Bhutan, the party said it had at least expected that there would have been some substantive discussions on an issue of such historical importance. "We had anticipated that more profound issues would be raised because the Constitution will soon change our lives so dramatically" the party spokesperson said.

Speakers only focused on broad compliments and on His Majesty's own phenomenal achievements more than the issues in the draft Constitution itself - all too predictable. All ten districts were unanimous in asking for the removal of the clause requiring the Druk Gyalpo to step down at the age of 65. The Druk National Congress's own view is that there should be no preset retirement age for Kings or those in political life and should continue in office as long as they have a mandate of the people and the ability to discharge their duties holistically and satisfactorily.

Maybe the main issues in the Constitution were beyond the comprehension of the average citizen and it would have been unfair to expect serious academic or political vision from the general public, but one could have at least expected some voicing of practical concerns and views. But the resounding message was clear - without the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression, there is never going to be any healthy discussion. It is rather disgraceful that this should be the conclusion after the promise of such radical political change.

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KHENPO THINLEY OZER RELEASED

Thimphu October 27: Khenpo Thinley Ozer, the former Chief Abbot of Dramatsid Shedra, and President of Shri Lho Mon Ngagyur Nyingma (Buddhist Welfare Association) was finally released on 26th October, 2005 after serving the prison sentence of eight years. He was declared as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 1998.

His disciples staged the peaceful demonstration against Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) demanding the inalienable rights to profess and practice one's religion as prevalent in international norm on 23rd October, 1997. He was arrested along with three hundred supporters on fabricated allegation and subjected to brutal torture and incarceration.

Mr. Pema Tendzin, Vice- President, Shri Lho Mon Ngagyur Nyingma (Buddhist Welfare Association) who is based in Kathmandu, Nepal said, "We are acquainted that he has to report nearby police station once in a month like a parolee, despite serving full prison sentences. It clearly shows the RGOB's continued resentment and disrespect to fundamental human rights".

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IBFS Welcomes the King's Decision

18th Dec 2005. Siliguri: An emergency meeting of the members of Executive Committee and that of members of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society held at the branch office of the society at Pradhan Nagar welcomed the announcement made by Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan on the National Day of Bhutan (17th December) that he will step down when the country holds its first National Democratic Elections in 2008.

"The King's announcement had added that the first national election to elect a government under a system of parliamentary democracy would take place in 2008 and will be hailed by all those who preach and practice democracy" added Shri Malaviya.

Shri Malaviya further expressed full confidence that the King would stick to his words and his commitment to parliamentary democracy would become a reality. He further appeals the democrats of world and particularly Asian democrats to help Bhutan with materials and intellectual input for the smooth transition from absolute Monarchy to Parliamentary democracy.

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Conference averted

Druk National Congress along with Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society (IBFS) had prepared to hold a conference on Bhutan scheduled for the inauguration of 6th foundation day of IBFS on 17th December to be followed by a conference on 18th December, 2005 at Siliguri, West Bengal to release the tension created in Bhutan and India borders after the aftermath of Bhutan's military operations against ULFA, NDFB and KLO in December 2003 and also to seek durable solution to refugee solution.

It is de rigueur on the part of society to seek the opinion of Bhutanese Refugees leaders to bring about the amicable solution to 15 years refugees imbroglio that is threatening to blow out of proportion in the region. Therefore, IBFS was prepared to help and restore the peace and harmony relations existing between two countries, and especially the border region, by holding discussions with the local leaders and people. The other reason was that frustrated refugees are likely to vent their frustration in insurgency and would create disturbances and effect the equilibrium of peace and harmony between Indians and Bhutanese.

Unfortunately, the Indian administration barred the refugee leaders to participate in the conference and thus the programme was shifted to Mechi bridge, Indo-Nepal border. It never crossed our mind that a conference to find resolutions to conflict could be averted. Nevertheless, IBFS leaders addressed the press conference attended by about 40 journalists at Siliguri and it served as a substitute. Needless to say, the painstaking energy, time and money invested in organizing the conference were all wasted and it thoroughly disappointed the expectations that the society had harboured before leaving for Siliguri. The primary reason was that the authorities mishandled the situation.

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Indo-Bhutan Treaty: review time
DALIP MEHTA

Dec 22, 2005: As King Jigme Singhye Wangchuk promotes the democratization of Bhutan and prepares to abdicate, a reconsideration of the basic framework of India's relations with that country has acquired some urgency.

More than half a century has elapsed since Bhutan and India signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship in 1949. It is time to review its relevance. The Bhutanese have long regarded certain articles of the Treaty as offensive and incompatible with their status as a sovereign country. For example, Article II states that the Government of India "undertakes to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations". This article is taken verbatim from the Treaty of Punakha of 1910, signed between the British India government and a Bhutan that had been defeated in war. No such restriction was placed on Nepal in its 1950 Treaty with India.

Understandably, today the Bhutanese increasingly regard the '49 Treaty as one signed between unequal partners. Being discriminatory in nature, they see it as anachronistic, humiliating and an unacceptable aspersion on their sovereign status. The Treaty fails entirely to reflect present day realities, unlike the 1998 agreement of Peace and Tranquility between China and Bhutan, in which the Chinese unequivocally acknowledge Bhutan's sovereign and independent status. Today in Bhutan there is a vocal, educated and informed middle class, proud of its country's past and confident of its future, and will not accept a subservient role. An assertive bureaucracy and vocal parliament is unlikely to tolerate much longer a treaty it regards as an affront to national dignity. With the king abdicating in '08, a moderating influence in our relations will no longer be there and India will have to deal with a far more complex and diverse political regime in Thimphu.

On several occasions the Bhutanese have deliberately ignored Article II of the Treaty in a conscious attempt to obtain international recognition of its separate status and to act independently of India in its foreign policy. The first instance of this was in '79, when Bhutan voted differently from India on Kampuchea at the Havana Non-Aligned Summit. There have been others since. In all of these cases, India has chosen to react by not reacting.

It is not as if the Treaty has never been amended. Article VIII, dealing with extradition, was amended in '96 by a fresh agreement, which took into account present day realities. A treaty should not be regarded as an end in itself but a means to ensure perceived national interests. For India, as far as Bhutan is concerned, its interests are defense and security. In other words, a treaty relationship between the two countries should flow from a mutuality of interests.

Flowing from this, it is suggested that a more pragmatic arrangement would be to modify, better still, enter into a fresh treaty that is workable, entered into willingly for mutual benefit and with realistic obligations and responsibilities. As both India and Bhutan share common security perceptions, Article II of the existing Treaty should be amended to stating that India and Bhutan will consult closely on foreign policy and security matters that affect their common interests.

Bhutan's future relations with China is a case in point. At present Bhutan and China do not have diplomatic relations. Sooner or later they will, not only because China is Bhutan's only other neighbour, but now that China has been given 'observer' status at SAARC, a relationship becomes inevitable. Both India and Bhutan would need to consult each other closely and craft a relationship with China that does not adversely impact on their own, and there is no reason that it should, given the improving relations between the two Asian giants. A relationship should develop between the three countries, which are sensitive to each other's concerns. India should take advantage of Article X of the Treaty which states that it "shall continue in force in perpetuity unless terminated or modified by mutual consent."

This gives India the ideal opportunity to show its sensitivity towards Bhutan's national aspirations, for after all it is India that has all along recognized Bhutan's independent status, and was instrumental in assisting it becoming a member of the UN and some other international organizations. It would, in the circumstances, be a gracious gesture on India's part to take the initiative in recasting the Treaty and removing contentious aspects. This would earn India immense goodwill and gratitude in the long run.

It would also reflect the dynamics of changed times and better succeed in preserving the close relations between Bhutan and India.

The writer is a former Indian ambassador to Bhutan

Courtesy: Indian express

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