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A month later, on 18 June 1955, the Foreign Secretary arrived in Paro with his 21-year-old son after trekking for over a week. While in Paro they stayed in the Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro. 

According to the letter, the five days were spent mostly playing the game of bridge. Before they left, they visited some chapels in the Dzong and saw our artisans at work and were impressed with their craftsmanship. The Foreign Secretary and his son left on 23 June. In another letter of Her Majesty dated 1 July 1955 to Ashi Tashi, “I think R.K. Nehru and his 21-year-old son Ajai who was educated in America enjoyed their Bhutan visit the most. R.K. Nehru loves walking and thought our country was the most beautiful.” 

On his return to India, the top Indian diplomat gave a press conference in Delhi, reproduced in Her Majesty’s letter to Ashi Tashi dated on 26 July 1955, “R.K. He gave a press conference on his Bhutan visit when he got back and has sent us cutting. He has spoken very well of His Majesty and seems especially pleased by the land reforms. 




In it, he spoke highly about Bhutan and seemed especially pleased by the land reforms. He said that His Majesty, despite his youth was very capable and progressive.”

According to the letter, two things that pleased him were, firstly, that His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck had given away all his land to the people and had persuaded the other big landlords, mostly the royal family members, to follow his example. 

The second thing that he was impressed with was the Bhutanese interest in learning Hindi which was being taught in the Bhutanese schools. Although Hindi is no longer taught in our schools, most Bhutanese can speak it fluently. 




Nehru 

“I have just returned from a long tour abroad. On my return, I received a report from our Foreign Secretary, R.K. Nehru, about his visit to Bhutan. I was naturally interested in his report and was happy to read his account of his visit.” (Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter to the Third King cited in “Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru”, Series II Volume 29.) Like his daughter, Pandit Nehru expresses his gratitude to the King for the courtesy and hospitality extended to the Indian delegation. Writing from New Delhi, 16 July 1955, he states “As I told you when you were here and were good enough to invite me to visit Bhutan, I would very much like to go there. My difficulty is how to find the time for it. But the attraction of visiting Bhutan and meeting Your Highness again is great and perhaps sometimes or other I shall manage to reach there. I fear it cannot be this year. I hope, however, that you and the Maharani will visit us again. It is always a pleasure to meet you both.”

T N Kaul

“I loved Bhutan at the first sight. Thimphu, Paro, Wangdiphodrang, Bumthang, are beautiful places. Rhododendrons in all colours of the rainbow literally grow wild on the hillside. The rivers are unpolluted and provide excellent fishing. The water is crystal clear, reflecting the blue sky, which is more blue than even in Kerman (Iran).” This is how India’s eighth Foreign Secretary, T.N Kaul (1968-1972) described Bhutan in his autobiography, Diplomacy in Peace and War (2016): “Above all is the view of the Chomolhari peak (24,000 feet high) on the border with Tibet. It is as beautiful as the Kanchungjungpa or Mt Kailash.”  

Like Mrs Gandhi, he too was fascinated with the art, architecture and the people and wrote about it. He said that the best developed art was the frescos on the walls of monasteries and the thangkas or scrolls which were hung on walls of chapels in private homes.




Amazed by the workmanship of the silversmiths, Mr Kaul who is one of India’s foremost scholar and thinker recollected his thoughts   in his book. He was surprised to discover the dual function of the dzong which served as a fort cum monastery and was the center of religious, social and administrative activities. He pointed this out in his book.

Mr Kaul said people in the villages wove lovely designs in cottons, silk and wool. Talking about the people, he said that they lead a simple life.  In spite of the hardship, they always have a “smile on their lips and a twinkle in their eyes.” 




Big Brother

In Kaul’s autobiography, he wrote that India should avoid the mistakes they made in Nepal and not take smaller countries for granted or act as their big brother. Mr Kaul said that the Bhutanese are sensitive, even touchy, on small things, proud and easily hurt. He remarked that it was important that India respect the Bhutanese sensibilities, honour their national aspirations, and win their trust and confidence. He concluded that Bhutanese are, “subject to many pulls and pressures, stresses and strains, internally and externally, and cannot bear these alone without the understanding and respect of a friendly neighbour like India.” 

When Mrs Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Apa Pant, R.K. Nehru visited Bhutan there were no motor roads nor airports, yet they endured the hardship of the journey. All of the distinguished Indian officials immediately fell in love with the beauty and tranquility of Bhutan. 




They were awestruck with the magnificent mountains and awe-inspiring landscape. All of them described the unique architecture and the simple Bhutanese people. They saw the smile on the lips and the twinkle in the eyes of the people.  As true friends, they saw how vulnerable Bhutan could be if it opened its door too wide to foreigners. Instinctively, many of them became protective and honestly expressed their grave concern with the Indian Political Officer, Apa Pant cautioning Bhutan not to Spoil the Country.  

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

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