On a Diaspora mission

Published on Nov 21 2008 // Opinion
By Dr D.N.S.Dhakal

From a population of some 700,000, almost one seventh of it lives outside Bhutan. Some are compelled by circumstances to seek shelter outside the country; some are living to pursue higher education or religious practice; and some are for employment or business opportunities. Irrespective of the reasons, they are Bhutanese people. Opportunities should be provided to them to re-establish their connection to their motherland, Bhutan.

The third country resettlement program is in the process of creating a sizable Bhutanese community in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and EU countries. USA alone has offered to resettle over 60,000 exiled Bhutanese; plus 6000 have been already resettled. The refugee intake by other refugee recipient countries is also in the progress. A couple of years down the road Bhutanese community will have spread over four continents. While it is unfortunate that they have to be relocated in faraway lands because of the political problem in Bhutan, we have to recognize the reality of the situation and adapt a policy to make most out of this extraordinary situation.

The dispersion of Bhutanese Diaspora is taking place as a consequence of the on-going democratic struggle. The after-effect of the post 1990’s demonstration has created over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees, most of whom were simple villagers living in different parts of South Bhutan. Despite the repeated rounds of talks, stretching over the period of 15 years between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal, have yielded no tangible solution. Because of the protracted nature of the refugee problem, and the increasing aid fatigue of the international community to feed the refugee population, the refugees are compelled to seek relocation in overseas countries.

The consent of the refugee population for third country relocation should not be taken as their betrayal for the cause of democracy in Bhutan. They do want to return to Bhutan, be part and parcel of the political process, and contribute in whatever small ways they could for progress and prosperity of Bhutan. All the political parties, which are in the forefront of the campaign for establishment of inclusive democracy in Bhutan, have the moral responsibility to enable these people to reconnect themselves with Bhutan and exercise their option later to return to their motherland.

South Asia has large populations living abroad. Like ours, particularly those of Indian origin, were relocated in overseas countries for political or economic reasons during the time of British rule in India. The desire to establish cultural roots had been always there amongst the relocated population. And to express that desire they have founded organizations. Indian, Nepalese and the Chinese governments have made special efforts to reach out to the Diaspora of their respective citizens. In return, these overseas organizations have contributed significantly for supply of surplus resources, transfer of technological know-how, and lobbying of world power centers in favor of their motherlands.

The dispersed Bhutanese population could coagulate under a joint umbrella which can in long run contribute to the well being of Bhutan. Its immediate objective could be to keep the Bhutanese Diaspora intact and grow up as a community with a distinct identity. It will enable them collectively to continue participate in strengthening of the democratic process until real democracy is established in Bhutan. Simultaneously, the Diaspora could also serve as a bridge to strengthen Bhutan’s international linkages, including funneling of resources, transfer of business and technological knowhow, supply of technical expertise for growth and development of the country.

In this perspective, there is a need to work towards building network among the Bhutanese who have reached the western country – be it they gone there from refugee camps in Nepal or directly from Bhutan.— and it should be supported by all the Bhutanese political parties inside  and outside the country.