The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Bhutan’s Race to Security Council

Published on May 02 2011 // OPINION
By Govinda Rizal
Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley has been touring SAARC capitals under the auspices of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) chairperson and taking opportunities to seek support for Bhutan’s election to the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC).
PM Thinley returned happy from Maldives. He was successful in gaining Pakistan’s affirmative response. Bhutan’s monarch took up challenge to successfully convince Bangladeshi leaders to support Bhutan. New Delhi seems silently positive to see Bhutan in the UNSC. India is in the UNSC and if Bhutan is elected, these two neighbors shall remain members for a year, during which they can flank other UNSC members to push through the change in the UNSC membership. India is proposing a change in the charter, which if successful, will increase both permanent and non-permanent members in the UNSC.
While in Nepal; PM Thinley met President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, his counterpart Jhalanath Khanal, Maoist Party Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal, former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and other good old friends. Bhutanese delegation wanted an assurance of vote from Nepalese leaders, in written, which only they failed to receive. After a depressing return from Kathmandu, PM Thinley, who rushed to Kabul, called on President Hamid Karzai and shared greetings of good wills. From among the SAARC nations, Bhutan received the weakest assurance from Nepal. But Nepal’s stance is equally important as any other Asian nations’.
Bhutan is seeking a non-permanent seat in the UNSC in the upcoming election in UNGA, for one of the two seats reserved for Asian Group of nations. In global political tussle, tiny Bhutan is constantly sidelined, used as a voter for rich and powerful states, and is seldom voted to any UN top posts. In a four decade long, loyal membership to the UNO, Bhutan has never been voted to the UNSC. The weakness lies not on the state but on the policies of the UN, that keeps less advantaged nations deprived from rights and opportunities.
The UNSC has 15 members; five of them—USA, UK, Russia, China and France are permanent members, whose one “No” can nullify “14 Yeses” from the remaining. The remaining 10 seats are filled by other UNO member states, which are divided into 5 regional groups. Each group has one to three members. At present, 192 states are members of the UN; only 117 members have been the member of the UNSC and most of them repeatedly. The five regional groups occupy, in turn, ten non-permanent seats in the UNSC. African group gets three seats, Asian group, Latin American & Caribbean Group, and Western European and others group have 2 seats each and the East European group has one seat. Once elected, the tenure is for 2 years and every year five members retire. The member state that retires cannot contest for next immediate election.
Bhutan belongs to the Asia group. There are 53 member states in Asia Group. At present, India and Lebanon are representing Asian countries in the UNSC. Lebanon’s membership ends on December 31, 2011 and India’s in 2012 and each to be replaced by an Asian member state. The competition is tough, and Bhutan lacks the money power and aid assurances, which the powerful countries commit to secure votes in their support.
For a state to be eligible, it must get selected from the regional bloc and later elected from UNGA. The representative from the elected member must be available in New York all the time throughout their tenure for emergency meetings.
Although the Security Council is the most powerful body under the UN system, it depends on the intelligence of the representatives and not just the size of the nation they come from, to deal with the world security issues.  An opportunity to serve in the UNSC boosts the disadvantages and less influential nations to gain leverage and recognition at the global level. It promotes the participating nation’s responsibilities over the global and domestic security concern. It catalyzes rapid improvement of domestic civil rights and conditions. Thus, the opportunity should be opened to a wider range of nations, disadvantaged and developing.
Bhutan has difficulties in gaining confidence of the permanent members of the UNSC as Bhutan has been rationally denying bilateral diplomatic ties with them. It should give rest of the nation an innocuous reason to trust Bhutan’s neutrality, non-alignment and impartiality in making judgments. Such characteristics are necessary in a member for UNSC’s function includes taking neutral roles in dispute and international issues, recommending or taking military actions against aggressors, recommending new members to the UN, recommending UNGA regarding the appointment of the UN secretary general, and electing the judges of international court of justice together with the UNGA.
Since the start of the five regional blocks in 1966, several countries became members of the council—some of them several times. Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, UAE, Vietnam and Yemen made it once; Bangladesh, Jordan, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines and Syria became members twice. Indonesia thrice, Pakistan five times, India six times and Japan nine times. There should be no dilemma why Bhutan should not be there once in more than four decades. Thailand is a good friend through royal relations while Myanmar and Bhutan share economic friendship. Bhutan is expecting a kind support from all Asian nations as well as from all the UN member states.
Since India and Lebanon cannot compete, India, Nepal and other friendly members of the region should have an ease in seconding and voting Bhutan to the UNSC for two years. Although Bhutan cannot afford to spend grants and aids for the seat, like other developed nations practice, Bhutan has enough reciprocal gratitude to receive from the members she has been voting for the last 40 years.
Bhutan has a good number of capable diplomats, who can successfully represent Asia in the world’s most powerful body. Prime Minister Thinley has a few names in his pocket.  Daw Penjo, Bhutan’s permanent representative to UN, Dago Tshering, the former Home Minister and present ambassador to India and Nepal, Sangay Ngedup, former minister for agriculture, Kinzang Dorji, another former minister, are at the top of his list. But there are other diplomats who can carry on the responsibilities even better.
Maldives, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, among others, appear supportive to Bhutan. Nepal and Afghanistan seem looking for big donor to buy their votes. The leaders in Kathmandu gave faint assurance to vote for Bhutan; political instability complicates assurance, as who may be at the power at the time of election is unpredictable. Asian nations’ vote to select Bhutan to represent them and later through an election in the UNGA to the UNSC membership will shape Bhutan’s image and build a affable trend of peaceful coexistence of big and small nations in Asia.
On the part of Bhutan, the leaders must intensify their diplomatic lobby. On the human rights ground, Bhutan should do two things—accept all the Bhutanese people, evicted by the former regime, from exile to create clean human right records, and avail more democratic liberties to the people in the country. The countries, which so ever,  receive requests from Bhutan, and or are willing to vote to Bhutan, should keep these two conditions strictly and see them implemented.
The best of all, should Bhutan gets elected to the UNSC seat, it will deliver a strong message of global justice on the smaller and weaker members of the UN.
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