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Israel and Bhutan normalize ties

The Kingdom of Bhutan and Israel this evening signed a full diplomatic relationship. The signing ceremony was held at the residence of Israeli Ambassador to India, Dr. Ron Malka. Ambassador Malka held an official exchange ceremony with his colleague, Ambassador of Bhutan in India, Major General Vetsop Namgyel.

Last weekend, Foreign Minister Ashkenazi spoke with his Bhutanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Tandy Dorji. During the conversation, it was agreed on the date of the signing as well as on the formulation of a joint work plan in the areas of water management, agriculture, health and more.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said: “I would like to thank the Kingdom of Bhutan and congratulate it on its decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. This decision is a milestone in deepening Israel’s ties with Asia.

“I invite my friend, H. H. Dorji, to visit Israel to promote cooperation between the two countries. I sincerely hope that in the coming year we will also host the King of Bhutan in Jerusalem for a first state visit of its kind.

“I would also like to thank the Israeli Ambassador to India, Dr. Ron Malka and his staff, for strengthening our relationship with Bhutan and for building the outline that led to the signing of the agreement on the establishment of diplomatic relations between us.”

The Foreign Affairs Ministry maintains contact with the Kingdom through the Mashav Division, and in Israel, Bhutan students participate in agricultural tutoring in Israel.

In recent years, secret contacts have been conducted between the countries, led by the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry, with the aim of establishing official relations, and there have been reciprocal visits by delegations from Israel to Timpo, the capital of Bhutan and Bhutan in Israel.

The Kingdom of Bhutan, bordering India and China, lies in the heart of the Himalayas and is one of the most beautiful and unique tourist destinations in the world. Bhutan has full diplomatic relations with only 53 countries and is the country that gave the world the “happiness index”.

Header: Paro Taktsang or Tiger Nest Monastery © Runaway Juno Paro Taktsang or Tiger Nest Monastery

Source: Arutz Sheva

Notes:

Gross National Happiness (also known by the acronym: GNH) is a philosophy that guides the government of Bhutan.

It includes an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population.

Gross National Happiness Index is instituted as the goal of the government of Bhutan in the Constitution of Bhutan, enacted on 18 July 2008.

In 2011, The UN General Assembly passed Resolution “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development” urging member nations to follow the example of Bhutan and measure happiness and well-being and calling happiness a “fundamental human goal.”

In 2012, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations convened the High Level Meeting: Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm to encourage the spread of Bhutan’s GNH philosophy. At the High Level meeting, the first World Happiness Report was issued. Shortly after the High Level meeting, 20 March was declared to be International Day of Happiness by the UN in 2012 with resolution 66/28.

Several scholars have noted that “the values underlying the individual pillars of GNH are defined as distinctly Buddhist,” and “GNH constructs Buddhism as the core of the cultural values of the country (of Bhutan). They provide the foundation upon which the GNH rests.”

GNH is thus seen as part of the Buddhist Middle Path, where “happiness is accrued from a balanced act rather than from an extreme approach.”

GNH has been described by critics as a propaganda tool used by the Bhutanese government to distract from ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses it has committed.

The Bhutanese democratic government started from 2008. Before then, the government practiced massive ethnic cleansing of non-Buddhist population of ethnic Nepalese of Hindu faith in the name of GNH cultural preservation. The NGO Human Rights Watch documented the events.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Over 100,000 or 1/6 of the population of Bhutan of Nepalese origin and Hindu faith were expelled from the country because they would not integrate with Bhutan’s Buddhist culture.”

he Refugee Council of Australia stated that “it is extraordinary and shocking that a nation can get away with expelling one sixth of its people and somehow keep its international reputation largely intact. The Government of Bhutan should be known not for Gross National Happiness but for Gross National Hypocrisy.”

Some researchers state that Bhutan’s GNH philosophy “has evolved over the last decade through the contribution of western and local scholars to a version that is more democratic and open. Therefore, probably, the more accurate historical reference is to mention the coining of the GNH phrase as a key event, but not the Bhutan GNH philosophy, because the philosophy as understood by western scholars is different from the philosophy used by the King at the time.” Other viewpoints are that GNH is a process of development and learning, rather than an objective norm or absolute end point. Bhutan aspires to enhance the happiness of its people and GNH serves as a measurement tool for realizing that aspiration.

Other criticism focuses on the standard of living in Bhutan. In an article written in 2004 in the Economist magazine, “The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is not in fact an idyll in a fairy tale. It is home to perhaps 900,000 people most of whom live in grinding poverty.” Other criticism of GNH cites “increasing levels of political corruption, the rapid spread of diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis, gang violence, abuses against women and ethnic minorities, shortages in food/medicine, and economic woes.”

Source: Wikipedia