As Bhutan starts preparing to commemorate and celebrate the 60th birth anniversary or Diamond jubilee of His Majesty the Fourth King in 11th December 2015, it is a time to reflect on the various facets of this extraordinary Monarch who has done so much for Bhutan and its people.
The various achievements of His Majesty the Fourth King in the areas of security, sovereignty, unity, stability, diplomacy, leadership, good governance, socio-economic reforms, political reforms, legal reforms, GNH, introduction of democracy and many more areas have been well documented and discussed.
It cannot be beyond a shadow of doubt that the Bhutan of today which ranks high on almost all international indicators and rankings is as a result of His Majesty the Fourth King’s efforts.
At the same time the gravity of the situation for Bhutan in the early days and His Majesty’s response to various challenges also tell us a lot.
When His Majesty the King ascended the Throne in 1972 at the tender age of 16, Bhutan was faced with unstable and radical times in the international arena.
Whole nations were being torn apart and divided on the basis of political movements and ideologies of the Cold War. On one hand there were radical communist movements which strove to wipe the slate of history, ideas and culture clean for its people and write a new one based on retribution, misunderstanding and anger. On the other extreme were right wing governments especially in small or medium sized countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America that saw overnight generals and dictators backed by the west also suppressing and repressing its people.
The similarity of both these left and right wing movements was doing away with the nation’s culture, heritage and history and the introduction of very foreign ideas which created more chaos and misery for its people.
In all this international political storm Bhutan was placed in between two unpredictable giants in the North and South who were going through their own major changes. Sikkim was in the last throes of losing its independence through the makings of an internal coup encouraged by major demographic changes, and things were starting to get wobbly in Nepal.
With this entire international and regional melee coupled with Bhutan’s economic backwardness, strategic vulnerability and isolation the young Monarch had a huge challenge at hand. Bhutan would need a leader who had the mind of a strategic genius like Genghis Khan, to preserve his small and vulnerable Kingdom and the heart of a Bodhisattva able to understand his traditional and mainly Buddhist people and work towards their welfare.
In the ensuing years His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo to the utter joy of his people demonstrated both qualities of a great and strong King who strengthened our security and sovereignty and also a compassionate and kind King formulating policies than even preserved the trees and other sentient beings of this Kingdom.
While countries and radical leaders with a finger on the trigger forced new systems and near hell on their people, that ultimately centralized power in their hands, His Majesty the King using the traditional wisdom, culture and traditions of Bhutan created a virtual paradise where he devolved and decentralized his powers to the people.
One important and ultimate test of leadership is the faith that a leader has in his own people. His Majesty the Fourth King demonstrated that throughout his 34 year reign which saw consistent and determined devolution of powers to the people ultimately resulting in the introduction of democracy. It went against the very grain of leadership in the old feudal Bhutan where powerful lords battled and conspired for supremacy. Here was a King who at the height of his power and supremacy gave everything up to his people.
It says a lot of a leader that despite the majority of his people being uneducated and poor, His Majesty never took his people lightly and always strove to consult them, talk to them directly, educate them and ultimately empower them.
The 60th Diamond jubilee celebration of His Majesty the Fourth King is not only a celebration of a Great Monarch but it is also very much a celebration of Bhutan which survived and thrived under his Golden reign.
“I am happy because I know that what I have done is in the best interests of my country and people,”
His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo (on the occasion of devolution of executive power to the Cabinet in 1998).