Small­est coun­try’ Bhutan makes a big splash at Vi­brant Gu­jarat

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi greets Bhutan PM Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay at Vi­brant Gu­jarat Global Sum­mit 2015 in Gand­hi­na­gar on Sun­day.

Even as some of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial lead­ers spoke at the Vi­brant Gu­jarat, it was Bhutan’s Prime Min­is­ter who stole the lime­light and the max­i­mum ap­plause from the au­di­ence.

Call­ing Bhutan one of the world’s “small­est coun­tries, sand­wiched be­tween two of the world’s big­gest pow­ers In­dia and China,” PM Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay, won both cheers and clap­ping from the crowd at the Ma­hatma Mandir hall in Gand­hi­na­gar with his witty re­marks. Di­rectly after the func­tion, he was mobbed by many, even as one busi­ness­man was heard say­ing in jest, “This has be­come a Vi­brant Bhutan func­tion.”

Mr. Tob­gay met with RIL chief Mukesh Am­bani on the side­lines of the sum­mit as well, although sources said no firm pro­pos­als were dis­cussed. When asked about the re­sponse to PM Tob­gay, Bhutan’s am­bas­sador to In­dia Gen Nam­gyal told The Hindu, “It is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to be able to project Bhutan on this stage, but we had no in­ten­tion of tak­ing any of the lime­light.”

“For­get com­pet­ing with other coun­tries, I know that the GDP of my coun­try is less than the per­sonal wealth of many of you in the room,” Mr. Tob­gay said, to much laugh­ter in the au­di­ence, which in­cluded top In­dian in­dus­tri­al­ists RIL chief Mukesh Am­bani, Power baron Gau­tam Adani and Adi Go­drej. In fact, at about $1.88 bil­lion, Bhutan’s GDP is just a frac­tion of their as­sets, with Mr. Am­bani’s per­sonal wealth es­ti­mated at about $22 bil­lion, Mr. Adani’s at $7.1 bil­lion, and Mr. Go­drej’s at $3.8 bil­lion.

How­ever, he said he val­ued Bhutan’s “gross na­tional hap­pi­ness” far higher than its GDP, and in­vited the gath­er­ing to “Bhutan is open for business,” said Mr. Tob­gay, “But only for clean, green and sus­tain­able busi­nesses, like hy­dropower, or­ganic agri­cul­ture etc.”

Speak­ing after UN Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Ban Ki Moon and US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, both of whom had made bat­tling cli­mate change the fo­cus of their re­marks, Mr. Tob­gay’s speech dwelled on Bhutan’s “clean and green poli­cies”. He said the coun­try’s forests cover 72 per cent of the area, it is de­pen­dent on hy­dropower, which ac­counts for 40% of Bhutan’s earn­ings, and the gov­ern­ment’s ‘car­bon-neu­tral’ poli­cies en­sure a “pol­lu­tion-free” at­mos­phere for in­vestors. “We also have open ac­cess to free mar­kets,” in­di­cat­ing In­dia, which drew a laugh from Prime Min­is­ter Modi. ‘Eco­nomic pil­grim­age’ Mr. Tob­gay ex­plained that he had planned to visit the Bud­dhist sites in Varanasi and Bod­hgaya in Jan­uary, but when PM Modi in­vited him to the Vi­brant Gu­jarat sum­mit he de­cided to “take an eco­nomic pil­grim­age ahead of his spir­i­tual pil­grim­age” and visit Gu­jarat first, a com­ment he made in flu­ent Hindi, which brought the au­di­ence to its feet.

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