Friday, December 30, 2011

Burning a 10 billion note

Last week I heard something very worrying. Our oil imports totals Nu. 10 billion (USD 200 million), which I am told is net profit from the hydropower exports. Five years ago, as a freelance columnist, I wrote this piece for Bhutan Times. I am afraid the fears I expressed then have sadly materialised.

Time to ponder seriously? You bet! If this 10 billion thing is true.  

Bhutan Times, Sept. 2007
Less oil, more thinking please

Thimphu has more cars than the total length of the road
A figure I saw on Kuensel, some issues back, stunned me for a moment – Nu. 2.1 billion (6% of GDP) spent on oil imports!  The report also states that the figure will increase in coming years as more vehicles get added to the already registered 30,000 vehicles in the country.  This I thought was more frightening.  Because as countries and multinational companies work towards reducing the dependence on petroleum we seem to be naively going headlong towards it.  Modern society is built on inexpensive fossil fuel (petrol, diesel, kerosene etc).  A simple example of the case in point is that if you look around or to yourself - the cloth that you are wearing, the shoes you are on or the soap that you had used this morning; everything has involved a petroleum product in one way or the other.  For production, for marketing or for transport to you as consumer.

Energy, or the lack of it, will be the defining issue for nations in this century and beyond.  The world is expecting another energy crisis.  Countries will go to war (if they have not gone already), companies will go to courts and communities will fight – all for the control of world’s limited energy.  Experts even speculate that ultimately nation’s sovereignty will be linked directly to how much this nation has control over its energy demands.  Many countries unfortunately do not have choice but to play on the whims of oil producing nations or companies.  One thing is clear – the era of cheap oil is gone.  And with India and China gulping more energy than anyone had predicted, oil price will only increase while the world’s production has peaked and oil wells are now slowing drying up.  Experts predict the price will rise to a level where ordinary citizens cannot afford.

Now bringing this global issue into Bhutan’s context, what does this mean?  It means the next world’s energy crisis will affect us very badly - unlike the last one.  The reason is simple – we have more cars now.  But there is one good news and, of course, one bad!  The good news is that with the harnessing of hydropower to the fullest, Bhutan will be one of the few countries that will be energy-independent and thereby relatively safe from global oil politics.  In fact thanks to India, we are already exporting surplus power which is becoming the mainstay of our national economy.  The bad news is that we are becoming, or we have already become, dependent on oil (Kuensel’s and RMA report say so).

So what do we do?  Obviously we cannot export electricity and at the same time become dependent on somebody’s energy.  Hence some serious rethinking needs to be done as to how we could use hydropower to meet our energy needs.  High time we set some short, mid and long-term goals on how much we can increase our dependence on hydro-power while reducing the demand for fossil fuels.  

First and foremost, however, we need to make the commercial power reliable for consumers.  It is a shame that we boast of exporting electricity but with a slight breeze or a drizzle there is a black-out.  Power grids have to be improved and distribution system has to be upgraded.  We cannot expect people to switch-on to radiator heaters if there is a power-cut on the day it snows.

Then a more serious consideration - the public transport system.  It is surprising that much-talked-about Thimphu Structural Plan (whoever did that) did not keep any provisions for electric trams, mono-rails or electric buses.  Thimphu’s population will definitely explode and with growing economic activities movements will increase.  There will be the need for mass rapid transport system.  Only with electric trams and rails can this be achieved.  Even if oil keeps flowing in, we cannot keep running our cars and buses.  Because every economic forecast for Bhutan predicts prosperity.  And prosperity would mean more cars which would ultimately lead to congestion of roads. 

Then the inter-city transport network.  Besides the widened Thimphu-Phuntsholing highway, we need to think of alternative transport system.  Phuntsholing and the other border towns are going to be linked to the Indian Railways network.  A narrow-gauge railway system inside the country is not an impossible dream.  If the British built the Darjeeling toy trains a century back, at least we Bhutanese, who claim to have defeated the British in a Duar war, can build a railway a century later.

Ropeway is another electric-driven eco-friendly technology.  This is of course nothing new.  I proposed this idea more than ten years back during the formulation of the Vision 2020 Document.  A ropeway ride from Thimphu to Punakha would, for example, need just one hour compared to the three-hour grueling drive.  Intermediary stations can be built on Dochula Peak, Talo and Nobgang.  Places like Gasa could well be connected with ropeways and cable cars.  Many Swiss and Italian resort towns have excellent facilities and may be a study-tour to these places would enlighten our planners and decision makers.

Finally, cars running on CNG are already on the road in India.  It is definitely a cheaper alternative than diesel or petrol cars.  Bangladesh has a huge reserve of natural gas and they want our electricity.  We could barter a win-win deal for both.  Solar energy is another source we could maximize.  Our houses need improved energy-retention techniques like double-glassed windows and ceilings.  We could even go back to mud walls which have better insulating properties than concrete.  My Japanese architect friend, Kaneko-san, has already built two such houses in Thimphu.

Whatever said and done, we need to think seriously, a little long-term and little out-of-the-box.  We need to shed off the “rugged-terrain-poor-country” mentality.  To start with we should stop buying, with public funds, Toyota Landcruisers that consumes a lot and pollutes even more.

Dorji Wangchuk is an independent filmmaker and media consultant and a guest columnist for Bhutan Times (

Saturday, December 17, 2011

National Day Address of HM the King

My fellow Bhutanese, it gives me great joy to speak to you on this auspicious occasion 104 years since Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck ascended the Throne, in 1907. Our nation has been blessed with the benevolent reigns of four monarchs since.

It is exactly five years since I became King. In these five years, we have made a successful transition to democracy. The elected government, bureaucracy and government agencies have implemented important development activities effectively and we have continued to achieve impressive socio-economic growth. Bhutan’s relations with other nations have grown more diverse and strong. I am extremely proud of these achievements and the people and I, are deeply grateful to the government, dratshang, civil service and private sector.

In October, I married Jetsun Pema. I am grateful for the warmth and affection with which, all our Bhutanese people came together to celebrate with me. I deeply appreciate the efforts and preparations made by the government, bureaucracy and volunteers; the prayers of the Zhung Dratshang and religious community; the good wishes and blessings of our senior citizens; the joy and happiness with which the youth embraced the occasion and the wholehearted love and support of the people of the 20 dzongkhags. The strength of your love and kindness towards me leaves me deeply humbled. As a young King, I have not yet been able to serve you as my father has done but my greatest desire is that I must repay your love, loyalty, support and trust. I pledge that it shall be my life-long endeavor to do so.

My dear citizens, while I am deeply satisfied with the progress of our nation, it is my duty as King to contemplate, every single day, on the challenges that lie ahead for our nation. My deepest concerns today are:

·      Democracy – we have made a unique transition to democracy. What makes this transition even more extraordinary is the short span of time within which we have done so. Yet, the true test shall be whether we have the will and commitment to sustain a well functioning and strong vibrant democracy for all time to come. Further, we have a strong, committed parliament today, but my worry is, in the future, whether our best and brightest people will come forward in order to serve the nation through politics. After all, for democracy to succeed, we will always need strong and capable people in parliament.

·      Education – the government over the decades has built schools in remote areas and trained teachers to man these schools. It has made immense efforts to build a strong education system. However, is the education our youth are receiving attuned to needs of the nation?  And once educated, will our children find employment and realize their full potential?

·      Corruption – will we allow it, as in so many developing countries, to spread throughout society and destroy everything? Or will we meet the challenge and overcome it no matter how difficult it might be? In fighting corruption, will we remember to also fight waste, unnecessary expenditure and complacency?

·      Self-reliance – how do we achieve a measure of self-reliance that will make our growth sustainable? How do we overcome our great dependence on imports, for example?

These are my concerns. But our people must be reassured that it is not only I, as King, who seeks the solutions to these problems. We have the government led by the prime minister, the civil service and members of parliament and local government, who shall all work together to address these challenges.

I am confident because our people are unique. Our people are proud citizens who love our country and take it as our sacred duty to serve the nation. As Bhutanese we have so many qualities to be proud of. The manner, in which we all were united in celebration of my wedding, is a symbol of the fraternity and brotherhood among our people. It is an auspicious sign, that we will always come together, in good times and bad, in the interest of our nation. We will always, together as one, defend and protect our nation. If we are able to preserve this strength of unity and harmony, we shall overcome all challenges that may come our way.

Before I conclude, in the spirit of national days past, I will present awards to those who have served our nation and people well.

I end with a prayer for our nation. That the sun of peace and prosperity may always shine on Bhutan – a nation blessed by the teachings of Lord Buddha – a Shangrila blessed by the great Guru Rimpoche  and founded by our revered and beloved parent Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal – a country born from the labour of Jigme Singye Wangchuck and the people of Bhutan.

Tashi Delek!

Bhutanese media were conferred the Order of Merit (Gold)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Acceptance Speech at Keio University of HM King of Bhutan

Honorable President, 
Honourable Dean, 
members of the Faculty, 

I thank you for conferring this honour upon me and giving me this opportunity to speak to the students of this esteemed university.

My dear students,

I have been King, but for 5 years. I can only tell you my own thoughts and experiences and hope that you take away something from it.

In contemplating how to be a good King for Bhutan, I realized one thing very early on. This world we live in is forever changing – the speed and vastness of the change is astonishing. One decade is unrecognizable from the last. What we take for granted today, was not imagined yesterday.

Take for example – our mobile phones - don’t we all love our mobile phones? We use our phones to capture special moments in our lives, we text our friends and co-workers, it helps us to conduct our everyday business, we get to speak to our loved ones and receive emails at the same time- This ingenious technology has completely transformed the manner in which we communicate with each other, its contribution to democracy, enhancing cohesion in society, driving up our efficiency… all of which is truly invaluable. When I was growing up, the closest we got to imagine the existence of such technology let alone ever using one was watching science fiction movies such as Star Trek.

Can you imagine life without mobiles? It’s almost unimaginable. And yet in the near future something else will come to replace this way of life.

This is why - I keep thinking about what our generation is going to do. How are we going to tread this world during our time? What kind of footprints are we going to leave as our generation leaves this world to our, yet unborn children?

I feel – in such a world, of great diversity and change – one thing is clear. The independence and detachment of an individual is growing. In a technologically advanced world, the need to build small, genuine, human relationships is no longer strong. A global village we may have become, but with islands of individuals. We have the tools for communication such as the mobile phone, but not natural and intimate human bonds.

The problems facing the world today – they challenge all of us equally. And the solutions to these challenges must come from a real sense of concern and care for others, for all sentient beings and, for future generations. We must care about what happens to this earth. That requires something more than leadership, science or technology – it requires Values. Even as I simply glance through the statistics that reflect the condition of the world today, however accurate the information may be, it’s not a pretty picture:

First, lets talk about the environment:
If you listen to these numbers, it is alarming how reckless we have been and continue to be. Something as fundamental as the environment – the Earth – has been forsaken for profit: Glaciers are melting, polar ice caps are thinning and coral reefs are dying. Climate change threatens the well being of all mankind. Today our consumption of renewable natural resources is 50% larger than nature’s capacity to regenerate. Every second, rainforests the size of a football field disappear Water problems affect half of humanity.  It is quite clear now, that we will be handing to our children, a world which has been, in so many ways, made worse than when we inherited it.

Now, lets talk about poverty:
  • In a world that has seen unprecedented material growth – the richest countries and people are richer than ever before:
  • The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for only 5 percent of global income while the richest 20 percent get 75%
  • 24,000 children die each day due to poverty
  • About half of humanity – 3 billion people live in cities – of which 1 billion are confined to slums.
The problems of poorer countries and people are often worsened by corruption – which impedes economic growth and prevents the nurturing of strong and fair political systems – both of which are key to increasing the opportunities for the poor to improve their lives. In developing countries, bribes alone total $20 to 40 billion a year – imagine what it could do for health, education and economic opportunities for the poor.

Even in advanced nations, corruption has taken root – it is simply far more refined and sophisticated. Poverty brings hardship, suffering and untold misery. We have to be mindful that with such disparities come disharmony, conflict and ultimately instability on a global scale.

What about health?
  • 1 billion people lack access to proper health care
  • 11 million children under the age of 5 die every year from malnutrition and preventable diseases
  • 300 million suffer serious sickness due to malaria and 1 million die each year
  • 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS
Then there is the global economy:
  • The unpredictability and imperfect nature of legislations have caused instability and uncertainty in poorer countries affecting the already insecure livelihoods of their people
  • Coupled with military spending the world’s future is even more unpredictable and dangerous. World military expenditure in 2009 was estimated at $1.5 trillion or about $225 for each person in the world
  • The poor countries, most in need of resources are typically the ones with the weakest voice in how the global economy is shaped
Thus, we are only laying the groundwork for a world of inequality and resentment – of future conflict over resources and livelihoods – of continued strife, of terrorism and instability.  The list of global problems goes on and on. And coupled with the rapid growth of the world’s population – from 2 billion in 1930 to 7 billion today and 8 billion by the time we are in our mid-forties - each problem will be multiplied and made worse year by year.

I could summarize everything and put it simply – “The greatness of science and inventions, of great philosophers, of enterprise and industry has brought the world immeasurable benefits. Today we live a life far removed from that of our forefathers. Yet we face new and greater global challenges. Growth that overlooks inequality, injustice, environmental degradation, unbridled consumption is ultimately unsustainable. And it will continue to throw in humanity’s way greater problems, until the day, we will not be able to repair the damage.”

So what we do- when faced with such great challenges?

The solution to global problems will not just materialize from politics, from great leaders or from science and technology. The solution will come from us living as citizens of our communities, our societies, our countries and above all as citizens of the world. As citizens of the world, our unifying force – our strength must also come from something that is not bound by nation, ethnicity or religion – but from fundamental human values. Values of Compassion, Integrity and Justice. They are as old as mankind and we must bring ourselves to appreciate them and return them to their due place in our lives, our societies and in our governments.

My utmost hope is that our generation - with this unity of aspirations and values as human beings – and equipped with this huge arsenal of science and technology and the lessons of history - will seek the solutions, so desperately needed. I hope we will realize that we are at the cusp of a fundamental change of thought – a social revolution that will change the way humanity will pursue growth. Our generation is called upon to rethink, to redefine the true purpose of growth. And in doing so, to find a growth that is truly sustainable.

The letter from the President states that the honorary doctorate is for my promotion of the philosophy of GNH. What is GNH? Well, it is nothing other than that approach to growth and development that I have just spoken of.

(My dear friends, let me repeat, our generation has to redefine the true purpose of growth. And since I know you are all students of economics I place on you the responsibility of finding this alternative growth path. You must approach this task with sincerity and great sense of responsibility but above all you must first be good and decent human beings).

In conclusion – I pray that you, my dear friends, will find wisdom, courage and determination to overcome challenges and grasp opportunities; to give you a moral compass towards honorable lives. I pray that at the end of it all, you will all be able to look back at extraordinary lives free of regret and full of satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment. And that I will learn, year after year, with great pride, of all the good you have done as simple human beings.

Thank you, my dear friends, thank you!

(His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was conferred Honourary Doctorate in Economics by the Keio University (Tokyo) for the promotion of philosophy of Gross National Happiness)

Monday, November 21, 2011

State Visit to Japan in thousand words

The State Visit of His Majesty the King to Japan was more than just a state visit.  It was a journey. A journey of life, hope and friendship. Something unexplainable which can perhaps be expressed only through images. Pictures they say tell thousand words. So while I try to put together my thoughts and reflections, here is a photo reportage.

The Imperial Family sent a car from their fleet for the Royal Couple. Among all arrangements, the security detail was impressive (but what is not impressive about Japanese way of doing things). They were there to protect the VVIP at any cost.

Japanese Emperor Akihito was not well. So His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito stood in for the Emperor. Crown Prince Naruhito had visited Bhutan in 1987 and said he "has fond memories." 
(photo source - Reuters)

Japanese Prime Minister Noda called on His Majesty the King on the day the King arrived in Tokyo.  The PM had also just flown in from the APEC Summit in Honolulu

The photo that moved a nation.  At the Guard of Honour in the Imperial Palace, His Majesty pays homage to Bhutan - Japan friendship by bowing down to the two flags.  This scene made every Bhutanese proud and brought every Japanese to tears.  
(photo courtesy - Reuters)

His Majesty the King greeting the children at the Welcoming Ceremony (Imperial Palace)

In an unprecedented move, perhaps defying the standard protocol, the Empress called on His Majesty at the place where the King was staying.

The State Banquet in honour of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen. In his banquet address His Majesty paid homage to the emperor and to the people of Japan for the special bond.  I sat next to Honorary Consul to Bhutan, Hitomi Tokuda and the beautiful wife of trade minister Yukio Edano. Edano is famous for his role as the cabinet secretary in the post March 11 disaster.  I also shared a wonderful joke with finance minister Jun Azumi. I also heard the most beautiful Bhutan's national anthem played here by the Imperial household orchestra.

Fans and wellwishers wait for the King and Queen outside the Kieo University Hall.  Everywhere we went ordinary people and photographers became a part of the scene.

His Majesty receiving Honorary Doctorate in Economics from Kieo University. "Our generation is called upon to rethink, to redefine the true purpose of growth. And in doing so, to find a growth that is truly sustainable." The King said in his acceptance speech

His Majesty addressing the joint session of parliament in Tokyo. His Majesty expressed his solidarity with the people affected by the earthquake and also supported Japan's aspiration as permanent member in the UN Security Council. "Bhutan not only believes in the need to expand the United Nations Security Council, we are convinced that Japan must play a leading role in it. You have our full commitment and support."  The Speech was televised live by NHK and webstreamed by the Diet secretariat. 

At Meiji Shrine. People as far as Kagoshima in South Japan were following the State Visit through newspapers, live TV reports and updates.

Butlers, chefs, cleaners and staff of Akasaka Palace, where the King was staying in Tokyo, line up to bid goodbye to the King and Queen 

In Sakuragako School in Fukushima those who weren't invited wrapped the building making the Japanese security details quite nervous.  

Inhabitants of Fukushima cheer the Royal Couple with Bhutan flag in response to King's much-appreciated gesture to visit the region. Someone wrote to me "HM's visit to Japan was like as if the real dragon showed up out of the blue clearing out the gloom and brought happy smiles to the Japanese people with the sun light after the storm

The Japanese security looked very nervous when His Majesty did what he love doing - dive into a crowd (photo courtesy - Yukio Tanaka) 

There were excitements, smiles, gratitude and curiosities all around. Some said they could finally smile after a long time 

Children and adults alike - all were either curious or touched by the royal presence in their locality.

People came out of their houses and work places and waived Bhutan flags all along the 100 km or so ride from Fukushima station to Soma Port. 

"Remember there is a dragon in each one of us," His Majesty told the children in Sakuragako School who also put up few cultural performances.

Hard evidence of a tragedy. A fishing boat still stands on top of a 20 meter wall.  In some places here the tsunami reached 40 meters.

Soma City - Fukushima. His Majesty joins in for the prayer ceremony led by venerable Dorji Lopen - Bhutan's second highest monk. "No nation or people should ever have to experience such suffering. And yet if there is one nation who can rise stronger and greater from such adversity – it is Japan and her People. Of this I am confident." The King had told in his address to the Japanese parliament.

HM King and Queen thanking the people of Fukushima for love and affection and the unexpected warm reception(photo courtesy - Hiroko Kobori)

Many people came out with banners that read "kadrinche", "tashi telek", and "Joen pa legso" .  Some had even decorated their homes and gates. It was simply moving to see how much this visit meant to them

His Majesty and Her Majesty surprised the hosts in Kyoto by turning up at the Governor's banquet in hakama and kimono. One female journalist confided to me that she nearly fainted

Men in Black. We wore our national dress throughout the Visit except on the day we left Japan.  It is almost rare that we have any pictures of ourselves from these tours. But we made exception for Japan. 

Some of the Japanese media covered the State Visit until the very end. We bid them farewell recognising deep in our hearts that they had done a great service to the relation between our two countries. Japan Times dedicated an editorial.

The entire Japanese foreign ministry team joined the Kyoto Governor and stayed on and waived as His Majesty and Her Majesty waived back from the aircraft. There is no goodbye word in Dzongkha, our national language.  Only "see you again" and this really goes for this wonderful land and wonderful people.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

HM King of Bhutan addresses the National Diet of Japan, 17 Nov 2011

With my deep respects to His Majesty the Emperor, Her Majesty the Empress, and the People of Japan, I hereby accept with great humility this opportunity to address the Diet of the nation of Japan:

Your Excellency the Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Your Excellency the President of the House of Councilors,
Your Excellency the Prime Minister,
Excellencies, members of this august house,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand here before you – a young man in the presence of great wisdom, experience and achievement - in an institution of such eminence and consequence in world history. There is little that I can say to be of much use to you. On the contrary, it is I who shall take away so much from this historic moment. For this I am grateful.

Jetsun, my wife, and I also thank you for the kind invitation to Japan only one month after our wedding, and for the warmth with which we have been received. This is an extraordinary gesture that reflects the generous spirit with which you support the long friendship between our two countries.

Your Excellencies, before I go any further – I must convey to you the prayers and good wishes of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Government and people of Bhutan. The Bhutanese people have always held a strong affection for Japan and shared emotionally in the success of your great nation over the decades.

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March it was deeply moving to see so many Bhutanese visit temples and monasteries around the country offering butter lamps, in their humble yet genuine efforts to provide comfort and support to the Japanese people. I, myself, remember watching the news of the tsunami unfold – sitting helpless and unable to do anything. I have waited ever since to be able to say to you – that I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering of families who lost loved ones – for those who lost their livelihoods – for the young whose lives have been completely altered – for the nation of Japan that must rebuild life after such great disaster.

No nation or people should ever have to experience such suffering. And yet if there is one nation who can rise stronger and greater from such adversity – it is Japan and her People. Of this I am confident. On your path to rebuilding and restoring of lives, we the Bhutanese people stand with you – humble in our power to provide material assistance but heartfelt and true, in our friendship, solidarity and goodwill.

Your Excellencies, we, in Bhutan, have always thought of the Japanese people as our fellow brothers and sisters. Our two Peoples are united by our commitment to - family, integrity and honour; to placing the aspirations of the community and country before one’s own desires – to raising the common good above the self.

2011 is a special year in our relations – it marks the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic ties. Yet, the Bhutanese people have always had a special affection for Japan that goes beyond our formal ties. I know that my father and his generation watched with pride as Japan led Asia into the modern world decades ago – as you brought confidence and a sense of an Asian destiny to what was then a developing region – and as you inspired so many countries who have since followed Japan into the forefront of the world economy. Japan was and continues to be a leader. Even more so today – because in this globalized world Japan is an example of strength in technology and innovation, of hard work and commitment and of strong age-old values.

The world always identified Japan as a people of great honour, pride and discipline – a people with a proud tradition in history – who approach everything with tenacity, determination and a desire to excel – a people of unity in thought and action; of brotherhood and fraternity and unfailing strength and fortitude.

I must humbly state, that this is not a myth – this is a reality that was displayed in your response to the unfortunate economic recession of past years and to the natural disaster in March. You displayed the true qualities of Japan and her people. What would have shattered other nations and caused anarchy, chaos and lament - was met by the Japanese people with quiet dignity, confidence, discipline and strength of heart, even under the worst of circumstances. In our present world, this combination of excellence – with strong roots of culture, tradition and values – is almost impossible to find. Every nation aspires to it - yet it is an integral aspect of Japanese character. These values and qualities were not born yesterday – but were born from centuries of history. They will not disappear in a few years or decades. What a great future lies ahead for a Japan that possesses such strength.

For this strength has seen Japan rise again and again, throughout history, from every setback to its status as one of the most successful nations in the world. And even more remarkable is the manner in which Japan has always, without hesitation, shared her success with people in all corners of the world.

Your Excellencies, I speak from the heart, and on behalf of all Bhutanese. I am no expert or academic – just a simple man with a deep affection for Japan.

All I am saying is that this world will benefit immensely from a Japan that defines excellence and innovation; from a Japanese people of great determination and achievement yet quiet dignity and humility; from a nation that other countries can look to as an example. And as Japan leads Asia and the world – as Japan’s presence in world affairs reflects the great achievements and history of the Japanese people, Bhutan will cheer and support you. Bhutan not only believes in the need to expand the United Nations Security Council, we are convinced that Japan must play a leading role in it. You have our full commitment and support.

Bhutan is but a small Himalayan nation of about 700,000 people. The country's enchanting physical characteristics coupled with a richly compelling history defines every fiber of the Bhutanese character. It is a beautiful country and in spite of its geographical size across the length and breadth of its varied topography lie scattered, numerous temples, monasteries and forts, reflecting the spirituality of generations of Bhutanese. Our environment remains pristine and our culture and traditions, strong and vibrant. Bhutanese continue to live lives of simplicity and modesty that foster a deep sense of harmony among our people, as we have done so for centuries.

Today, in this fast changing world, I'm most proud of the manner in which we live in a caring society where our people value harmony above all - where our youth have exceptional talent, courage and grace and are guided by the values of their forefathers. Our nation is in the able hands of our young Bhutanese. We are a youthful, modern nation with age-old values. A small beautiful country – but a strong nation too.

Thus, Japan’s role in the growth and development of Bhutan is therefore very special. You have not only provided valuable aid and assistance but also been the source of strength and encouragement as we strive to fulfill our unique aspirations. Your generosity of spirit and the higher, greater natural bond between our two peoples that is un-definable and yet so deep and spiritual - ensures that Japan will always have a friend in Bhutan.

Japan has been one of the most important development partners for Bhutan. Therefore, I am very happy to be able to thank the government and the people of Japan who personally lived in Bhutan and worked with us, for your steadfast support and goodwill for our Bhutanese people. I hereby pledge that it shall be my constant endeavor to further strengthen and deepen the bonds between our two people. Once again I convey the prayers and good wishes of the People of Bhutan to the People of Japan.

With Your Excellency’s permission, I would like to say a prayer in my own language – “May Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress enjoy good health and happiness. And may the sun of peace, security and prosperity forever shine on the beautiful Nation and People of Japan.”

Thank you, Your Excellencies!

State Banquet Address of His Majesty the King in Japan, Tokyo

First of all, may I convey my deep respects to His Majesty the Emperor and Her Majesty the Empress.

Your Imperial Highness the Crown Prince,
Your Imperial Highnesses,
Members of the Imperial Family,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

My wife, Jetsun and I are deeply grateful for the kindness and warmth Their Majesties have accorded to us. We are deeply humbled. As a young man, I must say, that the only way I can accept such generosity, is to do so on behalf of the people of Bhutan, whose love and affection for Japan is unique. I have always believed that the Japanese and Bhutanese people share something that is unexplainable yet deep and profound, something that transcends our day-to-day interactions, and even our histories. I have always seen this in the way my people speak so affectionately of Japan without ever having been to Japan. And then I saw it in the outpouring of support for Japan in March, with people from all over Bhutan visiting temples and monasteries to pray for those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Your Imperial Highness, our people share a special bond.

Therefore, I respectfully accept the kindness and generosity of Their Majesties and the People of Japan towards me, as a tribute to the spirit of solidarity and goodwill with which the People of Bhutan embrace Japan and her People.

I would like to convey the prayers and good wishes of my father for Their Majesties and the Imperial Family. In doing so, I take the opportunity to acknowledge the pivotal role played by the personal bond between Their Majesties, Your Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and my father, in furthering the warm friendship between our two countries.

Personally, I have to say that it is a special honour and happiness being here upon the invitation of Their Majesties so soon after our wedding. For, it is to Their Majesties that Jetsun and I will always look for inspiration and guidance during the course of our life together, and as we serve our nation.

I would like to raise a toast to the good health and happiness of Their Majesties and to the peace, progress and prosperity of the People of Japan.