Learning From Each Other Is Important: India & Bhutan
By Ravi Nitesh
16 June, 2014
With the first foreign tour of Indian Prime Minister to the neighbor country Bhutan, millions of eyes are looking towards this small country that is part of South Asia and situated between India and China (the two comparative big countries). The possibility of this high profile visit is being seen as diplomatic visit on economic purpose.
It was told that probably there can be various agreements with and after the visit, whereby Indian companies may find market in Bhutan. Bhutan also hopes and welcomes projects especially of hydel projects for electricity and hopes to export electricity to India after the desired investment for construction of such projects. On the other hand, the five T formula of Indian prime miniter that includes trade, tradition, talent, tourism and technology may be utlised in strategic manner to make a positive tie with Bhutan.
With its emergence from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy in the year 2008, it adopted a democratic system of government. A habitat of only approx 8 lakhs people with very low population density of approx 18 per square kilometer, Bhutan is a land of peace, of environment, of rivers and mountains. For every Indian and rest of other countrymen who are interested to know about Bhutan, they must see the virtue that Bhutan has and that it can teach to others as well.
This small country has a record of being the happiest country in Asia as per Business Week survey in the year 2006. Though with its confined identity and over-protective approach towards conserving tradition seemed to reflect its choice of being isolated from modern pace of development, but gradually it adopted the development path. With the smallest economy of the world, the country is one of the rapidly growing economies now. It is astonishing to see that a country where television and internet was banned till the year 1999 has transformed itself as a welcoming state for foreigners and is moving towards making ties on economical projects.
At a time, when everywhere environmental conservation is on the peak, a country like Bhutan, that is sensitive towards its tradition and environment, will pose as a case study for sociologists, environmentalists and development professionals to see that how it will balance both. With one proved example to make this balance is being the first 100 percent organic country in spite of being opened for trade with other countries. Making this balance is also a constitutional provision where 60 percent area must be covered with forest. With the increasing travel and tourists, this major carbon sink country, this country innovated ideas of green schools (with all materials recycled and agriculture and environmental conservation as subject) and green tax on private vehicles with one weekday designated as pedestrian day.
Another case is that Bhutan is emerging from its own cage and getting dignified as a sovereign country without any of moral and political pressure even in the form of advise. Back in 1999, it revised the 1949 agreement with India, where earlier it was told that Govt of Bhutan agrees to be guided by Govt of India in regard to its external relations. Now, this part has been removed. Even if Govt of Bhutan practiced this agreement in its foreign affairs or not is another matter, but having such an agreement is unfortunate for any country and for the dignity of its people.
Also, with its Gross Happiness Index, Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures happiness of its people. Though it is a matter of innovation and a welcome move of Govt of Bhutan to take such a step to measure happiness, this GHI is contradictory with the facts of discrimination with people of other communities living there. Many have been forced to move out of Bhutan in recent years and termed as illegal. These people (mostly hindu community of Nepali origin) expelled from Bhutan and still living in shelters in Nepal and other countries with assistance of UNHCR.
With all such points, it must be understood that though India is one of the fast growing economy that is source of many conflicts associated with development, environmental challenge, indigenous group’s interests, rehabilitation of affected people and other damages, Bhutan is a country that is aspiring to be one of the rapid growing economy with industries and projects but till now it tried its best to balance environmental system at its own place. With learning from each other, both countries can find the best way together with a fine balance of such development, as well as accepting and fair treatment to refugees and migrated people.
Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
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