An Overview on India-Bhutan Relation | India-Bhutan Foreign Relation

The bilateral relations between the Bhutan and India have been traditionally close. India and Bhutan have enjoyed a warm, cordial and mutually beneficial relationship. The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation of 1949 governs the basic framework of bilateral relations between the two countries. The Treaty provides for, among other things, perpetual peace and friendship, free trade and commerce and equal justice to each other's citizens. These relations are further strengthened by regular exchange of high level visits. India and Bhutan have also been cooperating closely at the international fora such as SAARC, UN, etc. By a long standing treaty, Indian and Bhutanese citizens may travel to each other's countries without a passport or visa using their national identity cards instead. Bhutanese citizens may also work in India without legal restriction.

Geography with India
Bhutan is located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the India and to the north by China. Bhutan is separated from the nearby country of Nepal to the west by the Indian state of Sikkim, and from Bangladesh to the south by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. The capital and largest city is Thimphu.  In 2007, Bhutan made the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, holding its first general election.

Trade & Economic Relations
The ngultrum is the currency of Bhutan and its value is fixed to the Indian rupee. The rupee is also accepted as legal tender in the country. The First Five Year Plan of Bhutan was launched in 1961. Since then, India has been extending financial  assistance to Bhutan’s FYPs. So far, nine Five Year Plans of Bhutan have been completed.

India is the largest trade partner of Bhutan. Machinery and mechanical appliances, Mineral products, Base metal and base metal products, cereals, fruits, nuts, coffee, prepared food stuffs, transport equipment, chemical products, animal products, vegetable oil, plastic and rubber products, textiles, wood and wood products have been traditionally India's main exports to Bhutan.  Indian vehicles dominate the automobile market and have captured more than 80% of the market in Bhutan. Besides electricity, calcium carbide, gypsum, ferro-silicon, particle board and Portland cement are the main imports from Bhutan.

In 2007, India renegotiated the 1949 treaty with Bhutan and signed a new treaty of friendship. The new treaty replaced the provision requiring Bhutan to take India's guidance on foreign policy with broader sovereignty and not require Bhutan to obtain India's permission over arms imports. The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007 clarifies Bhutan's status as an independent and sovereign nation. In 2008, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Bhutan and expressed strong support for Bhutan's move towards democracy.

India's bilateral political relations with Bhutan have matured over  the years and are characterised by close trust and  understanding and extensive cooperation in the  field of economic development, particularly in the mutually beneficial sector of hydroelectric power. Some of the major projects in Bhutan carried out with Indian assistance in the past include  1020 MW Tala Hydroelectric Project, 336 MW Chukha Hydroelectric Project, 60 MW Kurichhu Paro Airport, Bhutan Broadcasting Station, Major  Highways, Electricity Transmission and Distribution System, Indo-Bhutan Microwave Link, Exploration  of Mineral Resources, and Survey and Mapping. 

Educational and Cultural Cooperation
There is close bilateral cooperation in the educational and cultural fields between India and
Bhutan. India provides technical expertise and services of specialists to Bhutan in various fields. Government of India's scholarships are granted to 85 Bhutanese students at undergraduate  level and 77 at postgraduate level every year in Indian Institutions of higher learning. A large number of Bhutanese students study in Indian schools and colleges on private basis. India-Bhutan Foundation was established in 2003 with the aim to enhance people to people exchanges in the focus areas i.e. education, cultural exchanges and environment preservation.  India has extended full assistance to Bhutan in formulating its election laws.  a grant of Rs 47.506 million to Royal Government of Bhutan to source electronic voting machines from India.

Recent News About India-Bhutan Relationship

16 April 2012 : Bhutan is likely to cut power export to India in coming years even as it plans to import electricity during winter. Bhutan is expected to slash power export to India as the neighbouring country’s own electricity consumption rises fast due to industrialisation. This move may force India to review its strategy to meet long-term power requirement. Power import from Bhutan is progressively declining as availability of surplus electricity in the neighbouring country thins due to its rising consumption. Bhutan is estimated to have potential to generate 30,000 mw electricity from its hydro- resources. Indian public sector companies like NHPC and NTPC are investing in hydropower projects in Bhutan in the hope of exporting surplus power to India. Tala hydropower plant is an example of bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

21 December 2011 : Prime Minister of Bhutan Jigme Y. Thinley has said that with unfailing assistance from India, Bhutan had been making notable advancements in all fields. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could not be considered “the beacon for societal well-being” because it disregarded “the ultimate purpose of life and desire of the human being,” he said. What he offered as an alternative was a measure of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which would mean judging a policy on the basis of its contribution to living standards, health status, educational standard, psychological well-being along with cultural and ecological diversity.

1 October 2011 : The relationship between India and Bhutan has moved from one of donor-beneficiary to that of mutual cooperation, said Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigmy Y. Thinley. Pointing out that Bhutan now aims to become a green and sustainable service economy, he said that his country invites Indian investment in the areas of education, health, tourism and IT sector.

PS : Based on Civil Service Mains General Studies Paper 2 syllabus : Foreign Affairs with special emphasis on India’s relations with neighbouring countries and in the region