India has successfully made it to the good books of the United States, still the most dominant world power, as a part of its dual containment strategy of both the rise of China and increasing terrorism. China’s rise has been in some cases an apple of discord to both India and the United States, but ironically both these nations must maintain steady economic and trade relations with China.

Its large size, strategic location, rapid economic growth, educated and English-savvy middle classes, technological advancement, and better relations with the important players of world politics make India the only country suited enough to contain and compete with China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to visit Bhutan as his first official diplomatic venture. Previously, Bhutan was only received aid from India as an effort towards regional diplomacy, but was never seen as a neighbor worth additional effort. So, was this decision a mere generous gesture towards his motive of ‘political stability, progress, and peace’ in South Asia for the region’s ‘growth and development’, or was it one of his carefully crafted and conscious diplomatic decisions?

Located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, with China to its north and India surrounding all other sides, Bhutan stands to be a triple buffer state between India and its crucial neighbors Nepal, Bangladesh, and China.

The Indian state of Sikkim separates Bhutan from Nepal in the west, while the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal separate Bhutan from Bangladesh in the further south. Bhutan is important for India too, as it is close to the narrow “Chicken’s Neck” corridor, the sole link between the Indian mainland and the Northeast. Thus Bhutan happens to be a crucial link between Indian governance and India’s perennially disturbed northeastern region.

Despite the elapse of two decades of India’s “look east” policy, the northeastern states of India remain in a deplorable condition in terms of social, political. and economic conditions, with highly centralized governance, elitist systems of bureaucracy, limited employment options, large scale insurgencies, and poor standards of living. The Bharatiya Janata Party, built on clear Hindu beliefs and ideology, is desperately trying to morph itself into a secular mould to gel with the interests of the Indian minorities. The Indian northeastern population has a religious connectivity with its Bhutanese counterpart through Buddhist ideals.

India’s federal government has been largely unsuccessful in soothing the frequent and violent demand to secede. Better governance and infrastructural development through inclusion is vital for inducing a feeling of unity in northeastern Indians, especially with their geographical proximity and cultural equinity with adversary and powerful neighbors.

Insurgency is a sensitive issue across northeastern borders of India at large. The construction of newer roadways between Indian northeastern states and Bhutan will not only reduce transport costs incurred through longer routes of the well-developed states, but will also lead to the installation of security forces, thus combating insurgency.

Student and cultural exchanges between India and Bhutan will also produce new leaders for Bhutan and foster a sense of inclusiveness and security in the Buddhist and northeastern communities of India. On his recent visit to Bhutan, Prime Minister Modi announced plans to double scholarship money provided to Bhutanese students in India. Additionally, tourism initiatives between India’s northeastern states and Bhutan across the beautiful Himalayan belt can play a key role in socio-economic progress through newer enterprises and employment opportunities, infrastructure development and foreign exchange earnings.

India is set to launch the “National Mission on Himalayas,” an inter-governmental partnership to coordinate policy making and capacity building across states to create a “Himalayan Sustainability Fund” and build a Central University dedicated to the Himalayan Technology and give due importance to the programmes devised to arrest the melting of Himalayan glaciers from which most of the rivers in North India originate. Through programs like this, states like Bhutan and Nepal are sure to greatly benefit in financial, cultural and political ways. Such initiatives would also foster conservation and preservation on Bhutan’s national administration and elevate the Human Development Indices of both the nations.

Bhutan is blessed with several fast flowing rivers, which can all be excellent sources of hydroelectricity. These power projects in Bhutan can provide clean, green energy to India in exchange for its own currency, which Bhutan uses to pay for its imports.

Prime Minister Modi’s policy of focus on the local region without chasing great powers has many shades. In the modern era, where India has carved a niche for itself in world affairs, it is quite imprudent for it to relapse back into its role as a local government. This assumption, that India needs to foster local trade relationships with neighboring nations, is shaky, since India’s neighboring nations have only shown interest since India has emerged as an important global player. On the positive side, it can be said that India’s global neighborhood has been in a rather dynamic and proactive mode for the last couple of years, which is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. Although China is an economically stronger competitor, India, historically as a democracy, is in a better position politically to take a proactive role in these transitions.

As of 2013, Bhutan has no formal diplomatic ties with China due to unresolved border disputes. From the Kautiliyan model, Bhutan, though not a very powerful ally, stands to be crucial for India in its China containment strategy. Nevertheless, the great powers are working fast and it is time for India to achieve the yet outstanding success in this critical Indo-Bhutan relationship.

Abhismita Sen is currently studying for her Masters in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Previously, she interned with the Planning Commission, Government of India.

Photo: Jean-Marie Hullot (cc).

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.