In a historic announcement on December 17, 2023, as Bhutan celebrated its 116th National Day, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck unveiled an ambitious vision that could redefine the country’s economic landscape. The centerpiece of this vision is the Gelephu Mindfulness City Special Administrative Region (SAR), set to emerge as a pivotal economic hub in South Asia.
His Majesty’s ambitious vision for Gelephu Mindfulness City holds promising potential to significantly bolster Bhutan-India relations. As a proposed economic corridor linking South Asia with Southeast Asia, it aligns with India’s own aspirations for regional connectivity. The project’s focus on mindful, sustainable development resonates with Bhutan’s cultural identity and Gross National Happiness philosophy, while also attracting Indian investment and expertise in areas like infrastructure and renewable energy. Increased trade and collaboration would further cultivate mutual understanding and goodwill, cementing the long-standing partnership between the two nations. Moreover, Gelephu’s emphasis on cultural exchange and spiritual values offers a unique platform for strengthening shared historical and spiritual ties, paving the way for a deeper, multifaceted relationship beyond traditional economic and political bonds.
His Majesty’s blueprint for Gelephu involves strategic investments in green energy, robust infrastructure, and comprehensive education systems. The SAR project aims to seamlessly blend modernity with ancient architecture while staying rooted in mindfulness and Buddhist principles, distinguishing it from conventional mega cities.
Citizens of Gelephu are brimming with optimism as they envision the city’s transformation through the SAR plan. Dhan Kumari Subba, a resident, sees the SAR as a beacon of hope, not just for the present but for future generations. The meticulously designed city promises essential amenities and a nurturing environment for the coming years.
Lopen Thukten Jamtsho from Zhung Dratshang notes the distinctive nature of Gelephu’s SAR, emphasizing its blend of modern and ancient architecture, grounded in mindfulness and Buddhist values. The city’s unique character is set to attract attention not only as an economic powerhouse but as a cultural and spiritual center.
Private Entrepreneur Lobzang Dorji views the SAR as more than an economic opportunity; it’s a catalyst for innovation and growth. Gelephu’s well-planned urban center, he believes, will open new horizons for businesses, fostering entrepreneurship and contributing to a dynamic and prosperous future.
Yeshi Zimba from Wangdue Dzongkhag anticipates the SAR plan to spur economic growth, attracting businesses and talent due to improved infrastructure and enhanced quality of life. She envisions a diverse population creating a vibrant and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Civil servant Karma Choden sees the SAR initiative as a promise for a more efficient and organized urban landscape, fostering sustainable development and enhancing residents’ quality of life. Kinga Lhamo from Dagana Dzongkhag echoes these sentiments, emphasizing the potential for self-sufficiency and increased employment opportunities.
The SAR plan’s potential to address unemployment resonates with many, including Sangay Wangmo, who sees it as a pivotal force in revitalizing the country’s economy. Sonam Lhaden hopes the SAR will not only generate employment opportunities but also retain talented youth within the country, contributing to its growth.
The SAR’s significant geographical coverage of 1,000 sq. kms or 250,000 acres highlights its potential as a catalyst for economic activity and investment, despite constituting only 2.5 percent of the country’s total surface area. His Majesty emphasized that the Mindfulness City is designed for the benefit of Bhutanese citizens, both within the country and abroad, offering gainful employment opportunities and encouraging those abroad to return.
Gelephu Mindfulness City SAR is poised to become the heart of an economic corridor connecting two billion people in South Asia and Southeast Asia. With administrative privileges and a focus on sustainability, technology, and finance, the SAR will attract businesses aligned with Bhutan’s unique culture and Buddhist values, prioritizing spiritual well-being alongside economic prosperity.