A relationship with a difference

An observer may wonder about what is common about a people of the great plains of India and and the high valleys and hills of Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayas.

We are different not only in our geography but also our language, history, culture, religion, food, way of life and in an array of other areas. India, in fact, will have far more in common with its other South Asian neighbors like Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Nepal than with Bhutan.

However, ironically, it is the Bhutan-India relationship that is considered to be strongest and most stable one in the region.

It is a testimony to the Bhutan-India relationship that it has been made possible despite the lack of any historical, cultural and religious similarities between the two countries.

In fact it is the lack of any similarities or shared history that have helped cement this relationship.

On the historical front, there is no past or precedent of a shared political past like in the case of India’s pre-partition past with Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are also no shared cultural and religious traditions like India’s close religious and cultural links with Nepal.

It is precisely this lack of any shared past that has enabled the people of both countries to start on a fresh slate, so to speak, with no pre-conceived notions or unrealistic expectations.

The relationship between Bhutan and India has been strengthened precisely because we have given each other space.

We do not have Bhutanese immigrants migrating in large numbers to India or vice versa and the associated political and diplomatic complications associated with such large movements. We do not have any disputed territory between us. We do not host any extremists or groups against each other either due to ideological or political differences.

We do not have any unresolved political and emotive issues between the peoples of Bhutan and India. We have an open but well regulated and relatively safe international border between us.

At the same time, in the absence of any shared similarities, it is to the credit of the leaders, governments and people of the two countries on building a strong and stable friendship between Bhutan and India from scratch.

There is no diplomacy like candor.
E. V. Lucas

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