Placed in between two effective superpowers, and in a region where it is the smallest country, Bhutan has done well by not only surviving, but also thriving.
A lot of it is down to the high level of state craft conducted by our Kings and the adaptations and at times even tough choices made by the country.
With such a challenging environment, Bhutan has had to shape both its foreign and domestic policies to adapt to this region and also the realities of the neighborhood.
One such domestic policy is to make us stand out as a separate people and nation, is the unique Bhutanese culture.
Culture in that sense was not only for culture’s sake but it also started playing an important role in statecraft and securing Bhutan’s separate identity from its neighbors, and in doing so, strengthening its sovereignty.
Any tourist visiting Bhutan from a neighboring country will have no doubt that Bhutan is a completely different country. This also has an important psychological effect on visiting dignitaries and leaders which cannot be underestimated.
At the domestic level it also serves to unify a diverse but essentially common Bhutanese culture, and in doing so, the various groups within Bhutan as one people and one nation.
Overtime and with democratic evolution the application of Driglam Namzha has also undergone a positive and important change. People have taken ownership of it and are proud and happy to wear the national dress and follow the national customs no matter what the age group.
One recent example would be the collective outrage generated even among Amir Khan fans for his casual dress code while meeting the Prime Minister.
The future of Driglam Namzha, therefore, lies in not enforcing it as a law that has to be followed, but allowing people to come forward and take ownership and to understand the positive aspects and the also the bigger picture.
In that sense the overenthusiastic step of the Zhemgang Dzongkhag Tshogdu in making the Gho and Kira compulsory from 9 am to 5 pm in all areas and the resultant backlash on social media is an example to be avoided. It is far more effective to let people take ownership and to also set examples as our Kings have been doing for a long time.
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.