Bhutanese say India has no reasons to be nervous

Bhutan and India share a relationship that is unparalleled and both countries should trust each other

One of the maximum number of cases that reach courts in Bhutan is divorce. There are couples who decide to part even before they celebrate their first anniversary and there are others who file for divorce even after celebrating their silver jubilee. While there are several factors leading to such developments, a fundamental one is trust. As trust erodes, partners begin to watch each other with suspicion. It becomes very difficult for one to forgive the other, even for simple mistakes. Arguments turn to fights and ultimately, the two decide to knock the doors of the court.

These are at the very basic but fundamental levels. Deterioration of trust leads to the down fall of businesses, governments, including multi-lateral and bilateral relationships. It is indeed at the core of all relations. It leads to judgments about others on issues like being faithful, committed allies and development partners. It has a much wider application when international relations are concerned as it is the catalyst based on which leaders make decisions concerning their neighbors and friends.

Though it may not be proper to say that trust between Bhutan and our closest neighbor, friend and development partner, India has been shaken, social and mainstream media, including people seem to have this feeling. This is alluded to several factors, beginning from the unprecedented reforms that Bhutan has initiated to others like the proposed restrictions on entry of Indians into Bhutan.

Sonam Dorji, a writer and social worker based in Thimphu says these are works of people and “probably” government agents who envy the special relation Bhutan has with India. “This relation is deeply rooted. It began before I was born and it cannot be uprooted. However, interest groups could resort to different forms of propaganda, which could erode trust,” he said.

Concerning issues like the so called “stringent movement at the border,” Sonam said that the only difference may be the fact that those crossing the borders will have to do it in a more “dignified and formal” way. “Moreover, it is for security. I do not see any reasons for Indians to be worried,” he said, adding what is being done is for the good of Bhutan, which directly translates to the good of India.

According to a civil servant who did not want to be named, research conducted by psychologists and political experts have said that people feel more positive about people who resemble themselves, or who have balanced features and trusts them. “Bhutan- India relations have broken the essence of this research as we have thrived together in peace though we do not share similar features.” Just as Sonam, he adds that interest groups would or are already trying to shake the relation. “Both countries need to be careful,” he said.

When asked if Bhutan’s ongoing transformations would have made India uneasy, Tandin Wangchu, a private entrepreneur said that India should be happy. “Why would the Indian government be ‘uneasy?’ They would be proud instead to tell and show the world that a country which began planned development with 1747 lakh rupees funded by the Indian Government completely in 1961 has today become a country, respected and even envied.”

Tandin added history is testament of the “mutual relationship unparalleled in the world.” “Our interests are India’s interests. India’s interest are ours. It has been and it will be the same,” he said, adding he never misses a meal in a week with the Indian laborers working with him. “I look forward to that day just as they do; and we have fun.”

Others attribute to the pandemic. “Due to the pandemic, there has not been much visits of leaders from Bhutan to India and India to Bhutan. Catalyzed by the media and conspiracy theories, perhaps there has not been much communication,” he said, adding India has no reasons to be jittery. “We feel very happy when India wins the world cricket cup or achieves global recognition. Similarly, India should be happy when Bhutan achieves something. We have trusted each other and we have to continue doing so,” he said.

Ugyen Tenzin from Thimphu