HIMPHU (TIP): Irrespective of the results in July 13 election, the new Bhutan government will have to go the extra mile to end suspicion and distrust that cloud its relationship with India. New Delhi is understood to be upset with the manner Bhutan under Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) allegedly overlooked India’s basic national interests in the past five years.
Bhutan’s stated policy is that it won’t allow the UN Big Five to have diplomatic missions in Thimphu. But, New Delhi believes, Bhutan circumvented this by appointing a Briton to act as UK’s honorary consul in its capital and subsequently gave him Bhutanese citizenship. This, many felt, is not in alignment with Bhutan’s stated policy. So far, the kingdom, acknowledged as India’s staunchest ally worldwide, had refrained from taking any such step in deference to Delhi’s security concerns.
Ex-PM Jigmi Y Thinley’s critics in Bhutan and India claimed that the first strain in bilateral ties appeared over the way he described his meeting with then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in 2012. They alleged that although the meeting was “pre-arranged” , Thimphu projected it as “an impromptu interaction”. They were of the view that such “distortion” of facts made New Delhi suspicious of Thimphu’s intentions.
Many saw New Delhi’s decision to invite the King to this year’s Republic Day ceremony as a signal that it wants to directly deal with the palace and the people. All Bhutanese Kings, according to them, have been great protagonists of India-Bhutan friendship. It was perhaps because of this that New Delhi in 2007 agreed to revise the 1949 India-Bhutan Treaty after the king reportedly expressed his wish to have an agreement suitable to a country on the threshold of democracy. The revised treaty gave Thimphu freedom to pursue an independent foreign policy.
A year later, the kingdom embraced democracy. The revision of the treaty enabled the DPT government to extend Bhutan’s diplomatic ties from 21 to 53 countries between 2008 and 2013. New Delhi apparently wanted Thimphu to take geopolitical realities into consideration while expanding its diplomacy across the globe.
India, Thinley’s detractors claimed, did not take kindly to the alleged use of Chinese experts to instal heavy machinery in Bhutan. For China, they said, investing in a small country like Bhutan is a pittance. Amid reports of friction in India-Bhutan friendship, New Delhi recently cut cooking gas and kerosene subsidies for Bhutan. This not only became an election issue but also spread fear among the Bhutanese that India would punish their country because of diplomatic reasons.
Against this backdrop, Bhutan on Saturday will choose between DPT and PDP to head it new government. In 2008, DTP won 45 of 47 seats and PDP two. Bhutan follows a bi-party system. In the primary round that was held weeks ago to choose the top two parties for Saturday’s polls, DPT won in 33 and PDP 12. The remaining two seats went to Druk Nyamdrup Tshogpa that merged with the PDP.
The PDP-DNT union may put DPT in trouble in a number of constituencies where it won by small margins in the preliminary round. Bhutan’s three giant leaps First big reform: Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk set up National Assembly (Tshogdu) in 1953 It elected members representing Gewogs (smallest administrative units) This was legislating body, people discussed national issues SECOND BIG REFORM: Setting up of Royal Advisory Council (Lodoe Tshogde) in 1963 Served as link between king, council of ministers and people Liaison ensured projects’ timely implementation King Jigme Singye Wangchuk set up District Development Committee in 1981 (Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdue) In 1991, he set up Gewog Yargay Tshogchhung (block development committees) THIRD BIG REFORM: The 1998 devolution of powers to cabinet ministers King became head of state while PM head of govt PM has council of ministers Constitution signed in 2008