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International Relations

India – Bhutan relations | Important debate simplified

India – Bhutan relations | Important debate simplified


  • GS 2 || International Relations || India & its Neighbours || Bhutan

Why in the news?

India – Bhutan relations

Background of India-Bhutan relation:

  • Bhutan was a British Indian Protectorate and came under British suzerainty in 1865. It signed the ‘Punakha Treaty with the British in 1910, which, after the British left the subcontinent, set the stage for any potential interaction between the two countries.
  • A Political Officer based in Sikkim managed India’s relations with Bhutan. This continued until 1948, when a Bhutanese delegation visited India and wished to amend the treaties previously concluded with the British.
  • Standstill agreements with Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet were signed after India’s independence in 1947 to maintain existing relations until new agreements were made. For Bhutan, its position became clearer following Nehru’s invitation to participate in the Asian Regional Conference in 1947 by a Bhutanese delegation.
  • In 1968, with the establishment of a special office for India in Thimphu, diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established.
  • Sharing a border of 699 kilometres, India and Bhutan share deep religion-cultural ties. In spreading Buddhism and deepening traditional relations between individuals in both nations, Guru Padmasambhava, a Buddhist saint, also played an important role.
  • The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed between the two countries in 1949 was the fundamental basis of India- Bhutan’s bilateral ties.
  • The Golden Jubilee of formal diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan has been celebrated in the year 2018.
  • India and Bhutan share a historically friendly and warm relationship that is relatively trouble-free compared to other South Asian countries.
  • A special and organic friendship that is sometimes called a ‘sacred bond’ has often been shared by the two countries, largely maintained by frequent high-level visits and dialogues between the neighbours.
  • Bhutan was fundamental to the two main policies of India, the ‘Neighborhood First Policy’ and the ‘Act-East Policy.’

Way forward

  • India and Bhutan share a time-tested bond in South Asia that is a great illustration of friendship and cordiality. It may not be too difficult for India to improve this invaluable relationship, given that India’s assistance to Bhutan is all about making it militarily, politically and economically self-sufficient.
  • Bhutan will become economically successful, militarily advanced and self-reliant in matters of national security with India’s assistance.
  • In addition, as the largest democracy in the world, India can lead Bhutan in the development of the required democratic infrastructure and a political establishment that can support the demands of a democratic society.
  • India can attempt to stay out of the internal matters of Bhutan as far as possible; it can serve as a mentor and make efforts to assist them in their internal efforts.
  • Bhutan, however until recently followed the Indian direction in compliance with the treaty obligation of 2007, kept India’s interest in mind and evaded a settlement with China.
  • Bhutan does not rely on powers outside the region for the maintenance of a strategic order in the South Asian region; India should always harness the potential.
  • As is evident from the high-level visits from China and the US, India will have to remain alert to strategic forces that are courting Bhutan assiduously. It remains in the best interests of India and Bhutan to make the needs of each other a top priority in a world of growing choices.

Additional info:

  • Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1949
    • The Treaty provides, inter alia, for eternal peace and goodwill, free trade and commerce, and equal justice for the people of one another.
    • The treaty was re-negotiated in 2007, and clauses were included to promote the autonomy of Bhutan, abolishing the need to take foreign policy advice from India.
    • The revised treaty allows for closer cooperation in cultural and economic fields, in addition to providing close cooperation on national issues.

Mains oriented question:

What is the significance of India-Bhutan relation? What are the challenges in the relationship? ( 250 words)