Cana­dian Am­bas­sador to Bhutan prom­ises newer heights of re­la­tion­ship

Bhutan Times - - One-on-one -

His Ex­cel­lency Nadir Pa­tel, Am­bas­sador of Canada to Bhutan is in the coun­try and pre­sented his cre­den­tials to His Majesty the King last Thurs­day. He spoke to BT re­porter Sonam Pen­jor about the fu­ture of re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries and high­lighted mainly on ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of co­op­er­a­tion on vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and civil avi­a­tion sec­tors.

1. How do you de­scribe Bhutan-Canada re­la­tion­ship in the 21st cen­tury?


The re­la­tion­ship is very strong which is deep rooted even though our for­mal diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship started in 2013. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Canada and Bhutan goes back to early 1960s orig­i­nat­ing from co­op­er­a­tion in field of ed­u­ca­tion. Since then the im­pact of re­la­tion­ship has cre­ated pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment in ed­u­ca­tion. We used to have very strong ed­u­ca­tional link­ages be­tween Canada and Bhutan. Be­sides that we also have other ar­eas co­op­er­a­tion like in trade and in­vest­ment.

I think our re­la­tion­ship is very strong and has the po­ten­tial to grow even stronger. I also have Cana­dian busi­ness del­e­ga­tion who have come with me. My goal here is to work very hard to bring Canada-Bhutan re­la­tion­ship to even greater heights.

2. Canada played a vi­tal role in the de­vel­op­ment of ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Bhutan since early 1960’s and the sup­port is still con­tin­u­ing, what are the fu­ture plans in this sec­tor?


I think we want to con­tinue to main­tain the mo­men­tum. We have Bhutanese stu­dents study­ing in Canada; more­over we have teach­ers from Canada who are here in Bhutan teach­ing in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. So this is ac­tively go­ing on now. What I have seen is that there is po­ten­tial to ex­pand it. For ex­am­ple, Cana­dian univer­si­ties are in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to forge co­op­er­a­tion in ed­u­ca­tion.

Canada and Bhutan also have other ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion in terms of skill de­vel­op­ment, vo­ca­tional train­ing, poly­tech­nic train­ing, and tech­ni­cal skills. This will help de­velop skills for the Bhutanese to cater to var­i­ous in­dus­tries and to help cre­ate jobs as well. I think the ar­eas of vo­ca­tional train­ings have more po­ten­tial for co­op­er­a­tion than the aca­demics.

3. Bhutanese am­bas­sador to Canada, the first Bhutanese fe­male am­bas­sador pre­sented her cre­den­tials to the Gover­nor-Gen­eral of Canada very re­cently. How do you want to pro­mote the im­por­tance role of women in Bhutan-Canada re­la­tion­ship?


I think Canada has a very strong em­pha­sis on gen­der equal­ity and women is­sues with var­i­ous ef­forts on ma­ter­nal health, early child­hood de­vel­op­ment and post-mar­riages fo­cus­ing on women is­sues try­ing to fur­ther ad­vance gen­der equal­ity. We en­cour­age women lead­er­ship, women in busi­ness, and women in gov­ern­ment. So we con­tin­u­ously fo­cus on women. For ex­am­ple, in Canada, we are try­ing to pro­mote greater op­por­tu­nity for women in cor­po­rate board, in busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and par­lia­ment as well. So hav­ing the fe­male Bhutanese Am­bas­sador, I think it is very sig­nif­i­cant. It is also the re­flec­tion of Bhutan that it places on gen­der equal­ity as well. Your Min­is­ter for Works & Hu­man Set­tle­ment is fe­male. It is won­der­ful to know that she was one of the first women to learn un­der Fa­ther Mackey back in 1960s, the Cana­dian teacher. More­over, she is the first woman engi­neer here in Bhutan.

We have also been quite ac­tive on causes for women. We have funded RE­NEW in the past which fo­cused on vi­o­lence against women, sen­si­ti­za­tion and pro­vid­ing shel­ter. Be­sides that we have also funded Tarayana pro­ject that had larger ob­jec­tives but had big im­pact on gen­der equal­ity. So we have been very ac­tive in terms of gen­der equal­ity.

4. The Cana­dian Gov­ern­ment has shown in­ter­est to­wards work­ing with Bhutan in the ar­eas of power, avi­a­tion and trans­port. Can you elab­o­rate on that?


When it comes to power, Canada is the third largest pro­ducer of hy­dro­elec­tric­ity in the world. We have lot of ex­per­tise, and tech­ni­cal ca­pac­i­ties. We also have com­pa­nies that are in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing co­op­er­a­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties here in Bhutan. For ex­am­ple, pos­si­bil­ity of co­op­er­a­tion in power sec­tor. When we look at Bhutan’s de­vel­op­ment of hy­dropower it re­quires lot of hu­man re­sources. For that mat­ter the whole ecosys­tem of ex­per­tise, knowl­edge, know-how and prod­uct sup­port ser­vices are needed. We have all that in hand. So there is a good op­por­tu­nity to help the ini­tial projects that are go­ing on in Bhutan.

On avi­a­tion, it is a very crit­i­cal area. I had an op­por­tu­nity to meet with Min­is­ter for In­for­ma­tion & Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. We had very good dis­cus­sion on the pri­or­ity that gov­ern­ment places on de­vel­op­ing the avi­a­tion sec­tor. When it comes to avi­a­tion, Canada is home to In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion. We have num­ber of com­pa­nies based in Canada that have lot of tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and ca­pac­ity on avi­a­tion safety, avi­a­tion se­cu­rity, and air­port de­vel­op­ment. We also have com­pa­nies in­volved in air­craft sales, man­u­fac­tur­ing air­craft en­gines and the whole ecosys­tem. We also train pilots. We have com­pany called CAE. So I dis­cussed with the Min­is­ter on ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion.

Have you heard any­thing about our de­vel­op­ment phi­los­o­phy of Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness? If so, should Bhutan and Canada take this plat­form to en­hance wel­fare of its cit­i­zens?


Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness is some­thing unique. So my goal here is to es­tab­lish good re­la­tion­ship with the Bhutanese gov­ern­ment and also ex­plore ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion in de­vel­op­ment. On the part of de­vel­op­ment fund, we do have a Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tion ac­tive here in Bhutan which is In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­tre. It has been ac­tive here since early 1980s work­ing with the farm­ers in terms of agri­cul­tural is­sues, agri­cul­tural tech­nolo­gies, how to op­ti­mize crop yield and help farm­ers in­crease the yield of crops. Be­sides that we also have co­op­er­ated on de­vel­op­ment projects re­lated to healthcare sys­tem as well. So, this is an area we need to see how we can fur­ther ex­pand for col­lab­o­ra­tion.

5. How do you want to carry on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries as the new am­bas­sador?


The re­la­tion­ship is al­ready strong. So what I would like to do is that, I would like to see how we can build our strong re­la­tion­ship and ex­pand fur­ther in a way that mu­tu­ally ben­e­fits both the coun­tries. For in­stance, in ed­u­ca­tion, we can have ed­u­ca­tional link­ages be­tween Cana­dian univer­si­ties and Bhutanese col­leges to de­velop skills train­ing, vo­ca­tional train­ing, and tech­ni­cal train­ing by in­creas­ing the num­ber of part­ner­ships. So that is one area. Another is I trav­elled here with Cana­dian busi­ness del­e­ga­tion who are in­ter­ested to part­ner with Bhutanese coun­ter­parts and to set up oper­a­tions in Bhutan. Cur­rently the in­vest­ment be­tween Bhutan and Canada is very low. So we want to look at how can we in­crease trade and in­vest­ment be­tween Canada and Bhutan in a way that ben­e­fits both coun­tries. This is some­thing we will be look­ing at with the busi­ness del­e­ga­tion.

Be­yond busi­ness, we will also look in the area of re­spond­ing to dis­as­ters. We have lot of ca­pac­i­ties in se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tion to re­spond to dis­as­ters. My goal as the new am­bas­sador is to build strong re­la­tion­ship that al­ready ex­ists be­tween the two na­tions but also take it even to greater heights.

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