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Colonization by Cash

November 24, 2018

In the era of colonization long ago, gun boats forced otherwise independent nations to subject themselves to foreign domination. In today's world, it is the narcotic of cash followed by the hangover of massive debt which provide the foreign lenders control. Interestingly, two religious states that are in the same region are undergoing similar problems from two competing large neighbors. First of all, the charismatic, ladies' man and famous cricketeer, Imran Khan, was recently elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and was the only country to be created in the name of Islam following the British withdrawal from India and the partition based upon religion that followed. Bhutan is a nearby Buddhist country that has never been colonized in part due to isolation in the Himalayas and the dim prospects of any riches being present.

Imran Khan was elected in Pakistan based on his political charm, a campaign against the historic corruption in the country and the support of the Pakistani military. As most aspiring politicians looking to get elected, he made vast promises that appear to be quite difficult to fulfill. However, the man has all of the charisma and looks of a rock star.

Moreover, in recent Pakistani elections, the local currency plummeted prior to election and Chinese banks came to the rescue by loaning vast sums of money into currency swaps. Despite solicitation of economic support from many sources including Saudi Arabia, Imran was forced to arrange an IMF bailout up to $12 billion which will be devoted to paying off Chinese borrowings. However, China is already the largest provider of care and comfort to Pakistan with the Belt and Road initiative which is equivalent to 20% of Pakistan's GDP. Hordes of Chinese work in Pakistan in all disciplines ranging from garbage collection to power generation. The trade relationship between the two countries is roughly five to one in China's favor.

The ever-present military keeps a steady hand on frequent riots and volatile issues in order to protect the rock star they chose. One should also remember that Pakistan was the provider of a safe haven to Osama Bin Laden.

The sad reality is that with infrastructure projects, such as port development, coupled with trade deficits based upon raw material exports from Pakistan in return for higher value manufactured products from China, Pakistan may already be colonized by the Chinese with no future option available.

In the idyllic Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, is also a handsome rock star but serves as an inspirational leader to his country in light of the constitutional monarchy created by his father to give the people a say in their government.

Bhutan recently concluded an election with the central issue between the two competing parties being the economic benefits and challenges that result from the construction of dams and hydropower stations to provide electricity to the energy-starved major neighbor to the south, India. Hydropower comes at a price in terms of the impact on the environment and setting of this beautiful country.

Moreover, as hydropower has taken over the economy and diminished the historic foreign exchange generator of potato exports to India, the financing required from India has created a massive debtor relationship to the southern neighbor. Interestingly, in a recent visit to Bhutan, the author was stunned by the special visa status provided Indian citizens compared to other nationalities. Historically, entrance to Bhutan was limited to a maximum number of visitors with each visitor committed to spend a minimum of $250 per day. The intention was to protect the idyllic mountain kingdom from being overrun with tourists. However, Indians have been exempted from these limitations. Somehow, it is hard to keep the Indians in their tour buses away when Bhutan owes India vast amounts of money.

On the other hand, Bhutan has begun to make certain overtures to the always willing control freaks to the north in China. In regard to that approach, the author would suggest staying with the devil you know whose country gave birth to the Buddhist faith. Although India fundamentally altered course from a faith standpoint to adopt Hinduism, the roots and compassion remain. In China, there seems to be no concept of compassion in a rush for personal riches and the power of the modern emperor Xi Jinping. It is hard to imagine the "Gross National Happiness Index" of Bhutan surviving a Chinese colonization.

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