In the wide ranging and free flowing talk the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan Pavan K. Varma gave his views on Indo-Bhutan bilateral relations, the smooth transition of democracy, the monarchy as a guiding role and his personal attachment with Bhutan.
“As an ambassador my role was to strengthen the bilateral relation between India and Bhutan…. We are going beyond hydropower, going beyond projects, multi-facilitated campus of our relationship, I am asking the question, what enables such a relationship to be crafted?
I believe what makes this relationship what it is today is a great deal of Bhutan and who we have had to deal,” said the Indian Ambassador.
“Let me go that extra mile if I need to because it is a great honor’- an honor to be in partnership with a country for which we have this kind of affection and trust,” said the Ambassador. He said that he would place much greater credit to Bhutan and Bhutanese people in the crafting of this model relationship.
He said that at every level, India has had dealings with Bhutan, India has had the most intelligent, committed, dedicated, patriotic and efficient interlocutors.
“I don’t say this today as a diplomat leaving this country, I say this because it has been my personal experience and that of a great many of my colleagues and ministers and friends,” said the Ambassador.
He said, on the various forums set-up to handle different aspects of this relationships the Bhutanese side had competent people.
“Competence is combination of several things; it is to remain unyielding to what is good for your country and courtesy to listen and understand and perseverance to build brides when the gulf is too wide. Know when to give and not yield and coming to agreement and nurturing and taking it forward to give it something so that it becomes an institution,” said the Ambassador.
He said that he had seen the competence at every level of dealing with Bhutan and the Bhutanese people. He said it was an important factor in crafting the relationship.
He said that the Indo-Bhutan relationship is a model relationship which beyond diplomacy is based on a great deal of affection, love and sensitivity to mutual concerns.
“There is no forum where I go to India, there is no level and hierarchy of an immediate response of affection, of understanding, of desire to help and desire to be closer to Bhutan,” said the Ambassador.
“In the three years I have been here much has happened in our bilateral relationship, we had the visit of the Monarchs, Prime Ministers visiting one another’s country and exchange of parliamentarians and people- the ebb and tide of the bilateral interaction with the country so close to India is a continuum and it goes on yet to be able to retain within that ebb and flow a genuine sense of coming together, of coming together to infuse the mechanical aspect of bilateral relationship with a sense of greater purpose, that is the tribute which I want to pay to Bhutan,” said the Ambassador.
The Monarchy and Democracy
“A King abdicating, a successor is announced, both father and son then holistically move for a change in the structure of the polity,” said Pavan K. Varma.
The Ambassador said that he had been witness to a nation in transition. He said in space of five years a Royal King holistically became a constitutional Monarchy, a constitution was drafted, elections were conducted, an elected government came to power and the Prime Ministers and his cabinet ministers took charge and all of this ‘democratic metamorphosis’ happened effortlessly.
He further added that he ‘witnessed a very smooth transition of democracy in Bhutan and that too without any kind of upheaval that usually happens in most countries.
He pointed out that Democracy happened ‘peacefully and almost seamlessly’.
He questioned; “How did it happen? This magnitude of change always brings stress. How did the country manage to absorb this quantum of change? What is the secret?” He answered the question as his reflection.
“Bhutan has done it; it is a case study- it needs to be studied. And I would attribute several reasons for it not as any expert or scientist. The first and foremost is, is the institution of your King, kingship in most countries provides confers privilege, in this country as I have seen, it have conferred also service to the people and the nation,” said the Ambassador.
“The institution of Royalty in this country, the legendary King which it had created, that focus of scrutiny in the society, that point of near universal values, that encouraged with choice of beyond the fray and yet the focus of universal respect, a respect earned and not demanding necessarily, a respect earned through personal examples, through vision, through suggestive, through a commitment to the growth of nation, that kind of feeling for one institution- I believe was an important factor that even in the process of change there was a beacon light whose credentials were unparalleled,” said Pavan K Varma.
The Ambassador said that a question he is always asked in India and outside India, is whether democracy is functioning in Bhutan?
“That is the question that I am asked and it is a related question to so many societies where it doesn’t happen like this and my answer to this question has always been unfaltering yes as I see it in Bhutan,” said the Ambassador.
The Ambassador said that in the area of culture, Bhutan will face challenges and that challenges will be about ‘what do we borrow and what do we preserve?’
He said, “I hope Bhutan will not lose its culture and I am certain it will not and we can’t prevent change, change will come and alternative lifestyle will come as well.”
The Ambassador said that in a young democracy the young people should stay away from ‘cynicism’ and hang onto idealism.
“Nation must be idealistic; you must keep faith for the change that you want to make for a good reason,” he said.
The Ambassador said that his stay in Bhutan had been a very personal journey.
“When I say so much has happened to me in these three years in my personal life, it is a tribute to Bhutan. I wrote four books in Bhutan, the fourth yet to come,” said the Ambassador.
He said, “It is a tremendous reinstallation of faith in nature itself and for me this experience is something that renewed my faith in life.”
The Ambassador said, “For us Bhutan will remain a comfort zone, a reason for solace- anywhere and wherever we are, the atmosphere will remain with us in daily basis.
Puran Gurung / Thimphu