As the winter sun kissed the Thubten Choekorthang celebration ground in Gelephu, I stood among a vibrant tapestry of Bhutanese and Indian dignitaries, anticipation simmering in the crisp air. Our collective gaze converged on the screen flickering on the stage, where a hush, imbued with reverence, held sway, and felt the air vibrate with collective hope. Though miles away at Changlimithang, His Majesty’s voice transcended physical space, weaving a powerful narrative that resonated across hearts and continents. Each word painted a future so radiant, it felt like stepping out of winter’s shadow, blinking against the promise of a sunlit courtyard. 

His Majesty’s vision wasn’t just about grand plans for Special Administrative Region (SAR) in Gelephu, the economic hub; it was about us, the people. We, a small nation nestled amidst giants, faced a crossroads: cling to the familiar or push past borders, embracing opportunity like a child holding out open arms. Choosing stillness meant surrendering our future, letting our land become a footnote in history.

His Majesty not just offered us a dream, but a magnificent tapestry woven with hope. SAR Gelephu isn’t just a going to be an ordinary city; it is going to be THE Gateway shaped by mindfulness – a portal to a future brimming with possibilities. It is a beacon for our youth, a promise of thriving lives within our own borders. It is a bridge to the world, connecting us not just to markets and technology, but to knowledge, new ideas, and the power to chart our own destiny. But at the same time, a haven for mindful investors and ventures, Gelephu seeks to be a Mindfulness City, inspired by Buddhist teachings, and imbued with the unique spirit of Bhutan.

This vision, however, rested not on distant promises, but on our shoulders. His Majesty reminded us of our inherent strengths – the unwavering loyalty, the resilient spirit, and the innate intelligence that has guided us through centuries. The foundation to the new future is going to start with expansion of our investment in power and energy, building connectivity, and most importantly, equipping us with the skills to navigate this new project. 

But the responsibility went beyond infrastructure and skills. This gateway to the future wasn’t just conceived for economic prosperity; it is about safeguarding our three precious jewels – our heritage, our spiritual legacy, and most importantly, the future of our children. We, the present generation, are entrusted with building a legacy that echoed through time, a legacy that future Bhutanese would look upon with pride, knowing that we dared to dream and dared to build.

His Majesty shared the perilous paths of failed economic hubs in other nations, where their grand ambitions lay shattered by greed, power plays, short-sightedness, and the pervasive blight of corruption – these cautionary tales painted a stark canvas. Gelephu, he envisioned, wouldn’t be built on this shifting sand, but on the bedrock of integrity, guided by a compass of long-term vision and cleansed by unwavering transparency. 

The strategic focus on Gelephu extends beyond a mere geographical consideration. It signifies a deliberate initiative to mitigate potential risks and foster sustainable development by establishing a manageable environment conducive to effective oversight and containment of negative influences. While Gelephu will serve as the engine of economic transformation, the benefits will permeate throughout all dzongkhags, fostering national prosperity and equitable distribution of wealth.

It is important to acknowledge that any ambitious undertaking of this magnitude may attract actors, both domestic and international, who might seek to obstruct, discredit, or claim undue credit. However, allowing doubt or negativity to take root would be a profound disservice to our collective resolve. Instead, we must proceed with unwavering confidence and unified purpose, wielding our unwavering faith in His Majesty’s vision and the project itself as an impenetrable shield against any malicious intent.

So, are we ready, Bhutan? Are we ready to answer His Majesty’s call? Are we ready to shed the comfort of the familiar and step into the exhilarating unknown? I see the answer in the spark of determination in our youth’s eyes, the unwavering faith in our elders, and the spirit of unity that binds us together.

His Majesty isn’t just a King that sit on a throne; he’s one of us, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his people. He has pledged his life to this vision, and I urge you, my fellow Bhutanese, to take the same pledge. Let us work together, with unwavering resolve, to build this extraordinary legacy, not just for our generation, but for generations to come.

As His Majesty’s voice faded, its echo lingered, a resonant promise carried on the winter wind. In that shared moment, our hearts brimmed with a confluence of emotions – the thrilling anticipation of unfurling dreams, the unwavering pride in our inherent strengths, and the resolute commitment to the future he had so eloquently unveiled. We, the Bhutanese people, were no longer mere spectators; we were the actors, the architects, the co-creators of our own destiny. Gelephu, the city, became a symbol – a gateway to a future where every dream takes flight, a future we would forge together, hand in hand, hearts ablaze with purpose. 

Gelephu may be the city, but the gateway it represents lies within each of us. Let us open our hearts to this vision, hone our skills, and step into the future with unwavering belief. Together, we can build a Bhutan that shines as a beacon of innovation, prosperity, and unwavering happiness, proving to the world that even the smallest of nations can write their own extraordinary destiny.

The moment is now, the answer is yes, and the gateway awaits. Are you ready, Bhutan? Let’s walk through it together, hand in hand, hearts ablaze, towards a future where every dream takes flight.

Contributed by

Dawa Penjor, General Secretary, Bhutan India Friendship Association (BIFA) and Businessman based in Gelephu. Former Executive Director of Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF)