In the name of national security!

Many a times, good projects or plans have been shelved on the side citing security issue or the threats they may pose on the national security of the country.

The debate then stops there right away because nothing is more important than national security. Undoubtedly, as concerned citizens and people, our national security and sovereignty must be accorded the highest priority and deserves the highest priority.

But it’s also worth thinking whether we aren’t taking things too far sometimes in the name of national security?

Take for the example the discussion that hovered around transforming SamdrupJongkhar to its former glory or as the commercial hub of Eastern Bhutan. When this was first raised during the first sitting of the third parliament, almost all the Members of the Parliament voted in favor of allowing new entry points for regional tourists from the town.

And after reports emerged in the media of businesses in this border town coming to a screeching halt with the commissioning of the Nganglam-Gyalpoizhing highway last year, the Prime Minister’s Office had also directed the Thromde to submit a comprehensive report on the deteriorating market condition in the town.

A report was submitted accordingly detailing how taxi drivers lost their business overnight, how hoteliers and restaurateur were hit hard, and how wholesalers, retailers and other business owners alike were affected. As a solution, they solicited the promotion of regional tourism and allow opening entry points for regional tourists from the border town.  

However, the home minister has recently expressed his reservation over opening new entry points for regional tourists by saying that it “may or may not” come through, citing national security.

Similarly, if we look at the BBIN (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal) Motor Vehicles Agreement or the ambitious sub-regional road connectivity plan, it was shelved aside following stiff domestic opposition during the time of the previous government.

This was despite the government then maintaining that the people and country stand to gain more than sacrifice and opportunities were far more than the risks. It was not until security issue was cited from various sections of the society that the government perhaps cautiously left the decision on the hands of the future parliament and government.

How can good projects or plans, therefore, materialize if they are derailed in the name of national security? How long are we going to keep on closing places and towns because of security concerns?

In a discussion on ‘Trade, Transport and Transit Facilitation in and among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal’ early this month in Thimphu, the project advisor, who is also the former MoIC secretary, rightfully pointed it so when he mentioned that the same things are still being discussed year after year in Bhutan when people around the world are going to the mars, launching satellites and cars driving by themselves.

Recalling a similar meeting last year when India launched multiple satellites into space then, the advisor continued that they were meeting and sitting there, discussing how to get few trucks from across the border into Bhutan.