‘Bhutan is a second home for me’

Nadir Patel, High Commissioner for Canada in India, Nepal and Bhutan talks to Business Bhutan reporter Chencho Dema about his achievements, and describes his view and feelings towards Bhutan.

Q. Could you tell us about yourself?

Ans– I love spending time in Bhutan and I am the longest serving Canadian Ambassador to Bhutan that we had in our 16 years of diplomatic relations. I feel certain special affinity to Bhutan. My very first visit to Bhutan was with my wife when she was eight months pregnant and I have been back several times with my family. We feel Bhutan is special in our hearts. For me I don’t think I can be in this role as an ambassador if it wasn’t for education and this is one reason why among many different areas of focus for Canada, Bhutan education is one that I feel very strongly and personally connected towards.

Q. Three achievements of yourself with regard to Bhutan?

Ans-My focus of last several years have been to build on the legacy of Canada-Bhutan relation that goes back to the 1960s and 1970s of the education system with Father Mackey and ensure that our legacy is continued in the future. This is why the first thing we achieved was the agreement between Canada Bhutan, the annual foreign consultation, I think it was very important and what that does is it does not matter who the ambassador is, ambassadors come and go, governments will come and go but ministry to ministry mechanism for regular dialogue I think is long lasting so that consultation mechanism is the major achievement.

The second thing is in the period of time we have been here we have expanded the relationship there was largely focused on education ties for the most part and now we are actively collaborating in the number of other areas including agriculture, the organic sector including further deepening and broadening educational relationship, it includes looking at opportunities to grow trade and investment. It also include greater collaboration in health sector and it includes greater focus on women and child health in particular so that’s the second achievement that has been going beyond largely education driven something much more broader than that.

And the third area would be greater engagement at the political level between governments of Bhutan and Canada. For example on the margins of the New York in United Nations in General Assembly, your Foreign Minister met with our delegation and we have had extensive interaction-myself and your ambassador to Canada into the UN and we would like to see if we could arrange ongoing high level collaboration between our two governments and that was not happening before.

Q. Best thing about Bhutan and its friendship?

Ans- Best thing about Bhutan by far is the people without hesitation; people of Bhutan are extremely warm, welcoming, friendly, smart, and capable and we feel that Canadians are known around the world to be warm, welcoming and friendly and I think, I would say Bhutanese people is probably the closest match I have seen in any country around the world to Canadians. I travelled to over 280 countries around the world so that’s a small state.

Bhutan itself has very similar characteristics and feature to Canada. We have mountainous terrain and green environment and we are focused both about Canada Bhutan on preserving our environment on climate change on environment issues. This morning (November 25th) we felt and we also said to the Prime Minister, it felt like a fall day in autumn day in Canada and it smelt and it looked and it is very similar like in Canada. So we feel very much like it is our second home.

Q. What more can Bhutan expect from the Canadian government?

Ans- I think there is more value in focusing on many small things then there is focus on one big thing. So what we are doing is to give you some examples is, we are sending technical experts to work with Bhutanese ministry of health in area of high altitude medicine and that could be used to create center of expertise and also in health care sector we are working with Bhutanese NGOs on working to address cancer detection early on and manage through primary health care workers in rural and remote areas. These are the areas we are collaborating on funding or bringing in some experts. Another example is tax reform for that government of Bhutan is looking at enhancing on optimizing on tax system. Canada has played a role around the world with experts who can help provide best practices, expertises, and technology of tax reform. Another is mining sector, Canada is known for world’s best eco-system for sustainable and responsible mining. Bhutan is much already in that space so how can we share some of our learning, experiences by brining expertise’s here or brining Bhutanese officials to Canada to learn along this lines. In the agriculture sector about a month ago we sent Canadian experts that in organic sector in certification process to Bhutan to work with Bhutanese government to see how we can certify the organics’ eco-system here for opportunities to export in Canada and in another markets around the world. Another example would be women and maternal child as it relates to providing health care workers with opportunities to ensure that the right micro nutrition’s needed for pregnant or new mothers or new born are made available.  

Q. What can Bhutan learn from Canada?

Ans- I think the essential areas are that Bhutan has identified as part of flagship priorities and Canada has knowledge, experiences and expertise that Bhutan can learn from so that’s really what already discussed. But what is important to mention is also is it is just not about what Bhutan can learn from Canada but what Canada can also learn from Bhutan. So we view it as a two way street and Bhutan is far more influential, far more experienced than we might say if it just learning from Canada, we learn from Bhutan as well. For example Bhutan’s focus on its eco-system, its environment on preservation of its forest for example has been extremely notable and be able to sustain in itself as a economy against that backdrop I think is very impressive. Bhutan playing a very significant role in multilateral as a responsible trusted multilateral partner has also been notable and we really want to take up our relationship to be that multilateral partner as well. So there are certain areas of learning both ways.