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Bhutan's new monarch no stranger to statecraft

Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck has an easy familiarity with statecraft and blends tradition and modernity in his royal persona.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2007 14:02 IST

As Bhutan marches towards parliamentary democracy next year, the tiny Himalayan state may just have the ideal monarch to shepherd this historic transition.

He may be just 27 years-old, but the dapper Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, who comes here on Wednesday, has an easy familiarity with statecraft and blends tradition and modernity in his royal persona.

It's not entirely a coincidence that it will be the young king, representing the impulse of democratisation, who will this week sign a revised treaty of friendship that will modernise Bhutan's relations with India this week and give Thimphu more freedom in crucial areas of foreign policy and military purchases.

Wangchuck is the eldest of the outgoing king's five sons and five daughters and has been groomed by his father Jigme Singye Wangchuk to don the new role of a constitutional monarch when this Buddhist nation of 600,000 people holds its first elections next year and elects a prime minister.

The decision of the elder Wangchuk to anoint his eldest son as his successor and abdicate in his favour last year was hailed by the people of Bhutan.

"I would also like our people to know that the Chhoetse Penlop (crown prince) will be enthroned as the Fifth Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) in 2008," the king told a crowd of 8,000 monks, farmers and students at a remote village in Bhutan in December last year.

"As it is necessary and important for a king to gain as much experience as possible to serve his country to his fullest capacity, I will be delegating my responsibilities to the Chhoetse Penlop before 2008," he said.

Born on February 21, 1980, Wangchuk did his early schooling in Bhutan and completed high school and graduated from the Cushing Academy and the Wheaton College, USA.

In 2000, he went to Magdalen College, Oxford University, and completed the Foreign Service Programme and M Phil programme in Politics there.

When he was 22, the crown prince represented Bhutan at the 27th UN General Assembly in 2002 and assumed the revered historical position of Chhoetse Penlop on October 21, 2004.

He became the fifth Druk Gyalpo December 14 last year and will be crowned as the fifth dragon king in 2008.

A basketball enthusiast like his father, the new king believes in a strong Bhutan that's at peace with all its neighbours and whose people enjoy gross national happiness that the idyllic Himalayan state is famous for.

"Bhutan has no economic or military might, only a special asset - the people.

As long as we are motivated and committed we will not only realise our own individual aspirations, but it is assured that Bhutan will achieve anything she aspires to," the young king, adored by his female admirers as Prince Charming, told graduating students at a university in Thimphu last year.

"We must work hard, we must make our country stronger, more secure and richer year after year," said Wangchuck as he underlined his vision of a modern Bhutan that will amalgamate democracy and constitutional monarchy in an organic whole.

First Published: Feb 07, 2007 14:02 IST