Bhutan is now the first country to voluntarily pledge rapid deployment troops to the UN peacekeeping missions. According to Business Standard, the Rapid Deployment Level (RDL) agreement was signed on Friday, which the UN has declared “the first of its kind in UN peacekeeping.” The agreement was jointly signed by Atul Kahre, the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support and Bhutan’s Permanent Representative Doma Tshering.
An official statement was released which said that the Force Protection Company from Bhutan is going to be a part of the Vanguard Brigade of the Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (UNPCRS) which will be able to deploy troops within 60 days of a request by the Secretary-General. The Vanguard Brigades is utilised by the UN to provide a military element to a new peacekeeping mission area or reinforce an existing mission with a swift response time. The UNPCRS is focussed on dealing with conflicts and unstable situations before they potentially escalate. This is in contrast to the standard deployment process that takes several months to mobilise troops on the ground.
Atul Khare has stated that Bhutan’s pledge is “a great example of commitment to the ideals of a nimble, effective UN peacekeeping.” Presently, Bhutan has 45 military and police personnel- of which 2 are women- that serve in 10 UN peacekeeping operations. These personnel are concentrated in the Darfur mission of Sudan that has a total of 22 peacekeepers from Bhutan.
“The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions. We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form,” President Xi Jinping at the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the founding of People’s Liberation Army.
Speaking at the Great Hall of the People, Xi did not direct his message to any single country. However, with the standoff between India and China near the Sikkim sector, his comments become crucial.
The border clash ruptured over a disputed plateau which India calls Doklam and China recognizes as Donglang. The plateau, lying at a junction between China, Sikkim and Bhutan, is disputed between Beijing and Thimphu. India, being a close ally of the latter, deployed troops to obstruct China’s road project, which led to accusations on India for trespassing on Chinese soil. Officials say such transgressions are numerous, since both sides have varied perceptions of the Line of Actual Control.
Amidst the border face-off, there were no signs of strained ties at an event in New Delhi to mark the 90th anniversary of China’s army, which was attended by representatives from India, Bhutan and China.
Sources on both sides have suggested that talks are on to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff. Channels of communication are on as was seen by the participation of the Indian representative at the PLA event.
What is happiness? How can you assess how happy or contended the people of a country are? In the major developed countries like the United States, it may be regarded as synonymous to the progress and growth of their economy, or the increase in incomes or jobs.
But the quaint kingdom of Bhutan, lying cosily in the lap of the Himalayas has a different perception.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was only 16 when he became the king of Bhutan in 1972. Before him, especially in the 1960s, Bhutan lacked basic infrastructure facilities, such as roads, schools and health care services. Many countries exploited its natural resources which gave way to social and cultural disruptions. Ruling and looking after an entire country with a population of over 7,00,000 people was not an easy task, but Wangchuck did it with remarkable finesse and vision. He introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness, instead of Gross National Product, with a view to bring about sustainable development, environmental preservation, cultural promotion and good governance. To the Bhutanese people, a state of well-being, mental peace and satisfaction holds more importance than being affluent and wealthy.
25-year-old Rushabh Gandhi, Project architect of Vadodara Causes recalls his visit to Bhutan as one the best experiences of his life. His eyes light up when he talks about his 20-day long trip to what he describes as the closest place to a ‘shangri la’. During his visit, he was amazed at how helpful, humble caring and ever-smiling the people there are. For him, it is a country like no other. The people do not care about their standard of living, but the overall happiness of living a simple life. “There is something which is bigger than just what is on the surface, and it is the fact that they are cleaner on the inside,” he says. “It is a country where a driver stays in the same house with you, where the hotels are not rated according to their standards, where you don’t see security guards or watchmen anywhere, and where everyone is equal.” During their drive from Phuntsholling to Mongar, Rushabh and his friends never had to lock the doors of their car or worry about their luggage being stolen. “It was one of the amazing things I’ve ever seen.”
Bhutan is a country that is slowly getting used to being a democracy after being a monarchy. It elected its first government in 2008 and it is now called a constitutional monarchy. Now, Prime Minister Jigmi Yoser Thinley works alongside King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck in order to meet the demands of the democracy. The country has come a long way from being a backward nation to one that is one of the happiest and the fastest developing nations in the world. Tourism is surging, the construction sector is booming and satellite dishes, smartphones and Internet cafés are increasing in number. However, what is striking is the fact that amidst all of this, Bhutan has managed to preserve its traditions, culture and its authenticity.
Not only does the Royal Government of Bhutan provide free healthcare and education, its life expectancy has also increased dramatically. It is a country which has an edge over most of the other countries owing to certain striking reasons. For starters, about 75% of the country’s land is covered by forests and the people are law-abiding and non-corrupt. “You won’t find anyone who is not interested in smiling back or answering any question.” says Rushabh. “The Lamas, or the gurus of the dharma, carry cash in transparent plastic bags to the banks. People walk freely on the streets. Can you expect such liberty in India?”
Apart from all of this, Bhutan is known for its spectacular cultural identity. The majority of the people follow Vajrayana Buddhism and have their own spiritual guides. Their traditional attire consists of a knee-length robe called a ‘gho’ and their monasteries are painted with dragons and other mystical creatures. The official language, Dzongkha, is widely spoken and the national sport of archery is played with as much enthusiasm as we display for cricket in India. The cuisine consists of a lot of chilli and cheese and the customs are carried out with genuine joy and passion. The architectural style with intricately paved windows and doors is another unique feature of Bhutan which asserts their carefully nurtured cultural heritage.
“Bhutan is a beautiful country. It is peaceful, loving and minds its own business. It doesn’t get involved in global controversies or problems,” says Jayanthi Krishnamachary, Deputy Editor at Frontline magazine.
Bhutan is also one of the first countries that are going to be completely organic when it comes to farming. Agriculture is one of the main occupations of the Bhutanese, the people have undertaken a project which working in harmony with nature. Known as the National Organic Policy, it is an initiative where no pesticides, herbicides or fluoride-based spray products are going to be used while farming. The country aims at producing what was once known as ‘real’ food.
In terms of maintaining a relationship with India, it has been a tremendous success story. India has invested in hydro power in Bhutan and have a vision of producing 10, 000 MW of hydro power by the year 2020. With hydro power plants being set up in Bhutan, 3500 MW of power has already been generated and is likely to increase in the year. According to the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Shiv Shankar Menon, the Bhutanese have been very wise in how they use their resources within their own society. As they transition into a constitutional monarchy, they juggle with defending their traditions, and economically move ahead with the incomes of the people on the rise. “Looking at the Human Development indicators, the most dramatic increase in South Asia is in Bhutan, and the next best is Bangladesh. It’s natural that as the incomes rise, Bhutan’s exposure to the rest of the world will grow. She will find a larger place in international society. But at the time being, they are concentrating at what they are doing at home,” he says.
The Bhutanese are currently trying to fit their innocence and traditions with the upcoming onslaught of modernity and economic progress. Taking part in international affairs is an indispensable part of every country today, and so is it with Bhutan. The cultural values of the country are getting intertwined with the challenges the Bhutanese will have to face when they trudge into the global sphere and progress further economically. Will it be able to preserve its cultural individuality and remain to be the happiest and purest countries as it ascends and makes its way into the global sphere?