Canadian Ambassador to Bhutan promises newer heights of relationship
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.