Saturday morning, many Bhutanese will be glued to their television sets as His Majesty the King graces India’s 64th Republic Day as the Chief Guest.
There is no doubt that this is a great honour for Bhutan and a moment of pride for every Bhutanese.
Millions of Indian and foreign viewers across the region and the world will also be watching as His Majesty who is the symbol of Bhutan’s unity, security, stability and sovereignty takes center stage on the day.
For Bhutan the occasion can be listed as perhaps the most significant diplomatic event since His Majesty the Fourth King was invited as the Republic Day chief guest in 2005.
The visit by His Majesty the King also underscores in many ways the growing importance of Bhutan as a sovereign nation in the regional and international community. It is also a high level diplomatic tribute paid by our close neighbor and friend India.
His Majesty’s presence at India’s most prestigious public occasion is also a symbol of Bhutan coming of age under the Enlightened Monarchy now in its 105th year.
In this historically short time period Bhutan moved from a period of feudal anarchy and a divided warring factions into a unified, strong, stable, peaceful and modern country.
It is due to this that several international agencies and their reports, place Bhutan at the high end of many socio-economic and political indicators.
While many much bigger and richer countries have gone through much turmoil and strife even in this region, Bhutan, under the wise, selfless and practical reign of the Monarchy developed in a stable and peaceful manner.
In addition to the important and symbolical nature of His Majesty’s visit there are also several practical realities.
As the Prime Minister tours the country inspecting and inaugurating several developmental works listed in the 10th plan, the majority of these have been possible due to assistance from India. As the Prime Minister also makes several future promises for the 11th plan, the fulfillment of most of these promises will depend on the level of assistance from India as Bhutan’s largest developmental partner.
Also the current government’s promise of a self sufficient Bhutan by 2020 is based mainly on the 10,000 MW projects again being funded by India.
Given the fact that the Indian leadership and public hold Bhutan’s Monarchy in high regard the timing of His Majesty the King’s visit to India could not have come at a more crucial and important period.
His Majesty’s acceptance of the invitation to be the Chief Guest and His Majesty’s visit is, therefore, not only an honor for Bhutan but it is also an affirmation of the close Indo-Bhutan friendship by Bhutan.
In the recent past the usually controversy free Indo-Bhutan friendship came under some degree of scrutiny in the Indian Media and public opinion due to some contested diplomatic statements in relation to Bhutan’s giant northern neighbor.
While the elected government was unable to deal effectively with the issue, His Majesty played the single most important role in avoiding unnecessary misunderstanding and misinterpretations, doing damage control and strengthening relations with India. One visible example of His Majesty’s efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries was the awarding of the prestigious awards to both Indian diplomats and also Bhutanese officials for promoting close ties between the two countries.
His Majesty the King will be meeting with the senior most Indian ministers and senior bureaucrats during his state visit from January 23rd to January 30th which will further Bhutan’s diplomatic, economic and national interests.
His Majesty the King’s visit and presence on India’s Republic Day apart from the symbolical and international diplomatic advantages will also have a positive impact on Bhutan’s socio-economic development in the long run.