India-Bhutan Relations

Mains Marks Booster     27th July 2023        
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Introduction: India and Bhutan have had long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural relations. India and Bhutan share a long-standing diplomatic, economic, and cultural relationship. The two countries are bound by the Treaty of Friendship, which was renegotiated in 2007 to establish a more equal partnership.

What is the Treaty of Friendship?

  • 1949 Treaty: The Treaty of Friendship was signed between Bhutan and India on August 8, 1949. It aimed to ensure peace and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
  • 2007 Treaty: India and Bhutan renegotiated the treaty in 2007, replacing the provision that required Bhutan to seek India's guidance on foreign policy. The new treaty emphasized sovereignty and cooperation based on mutual interests.

Significance of Bhutan to India

  • Buffer to China: Bhutan serves as a buffer state between India and China, sharing a border with China. Its strategic location is crucial for India's security interests.
  • Vital Connectivity: The Chumbi Valley, located at the tri-junction of Bhutan, India, and China, is vital for India's connectivity as it lies close to the "Chicken's neck" in North Bengal.
  • Security in North-East: Bhutan has cooperated with India in addressing security concerns in India's north-eastern region by assisting in flushing out militant groups.
  • Chinese Inroad: China is interested in establishing diplomatic relations with Bhutan and has territorial claims in western Bhutan. India's close relationship with Bhutan is essential to counter Chinese influence.

India-Bhutan Ties: A Timeline

  • 8th Century AD: Historically, India and Bhutan share strong cultural ties dating back to the introduction of Tantric Buddhism in the region.
  • 1947: Bhutan was among the first countries to recognize India's independence.
  • 1972: India and Bhutan signed a trade and commerce agreement, establishing free trade and commerce between the two nations.
  • Post-independence: Embassies were opened in 1978, and the relationship between India and Bhutan is based on the 1949 India-Bhutan Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. This treaty was revised in 2007, indicating the continuous evolution of their relations.

China Factor in Ties: China Preying on Small Neighbours

  • Importance of Bhutan: Both India and China attach strategic importance to Bhutan. Chinese territorial claims near the Siliguri Corridor pose a security challenge for India.
  • Border Settlement and Diplomatic Relations: China reportedly links border settlement with Bhutan establishing trade and diplomatic relations. Bhutan's participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could be a potential concern for India.

Need of Bhutan for India

  • Trusted Ally: Bhutan has been India's most trusted ally in South Asia and has prioritized India's security interests.
  • Security Cooperation: Bhutan's active cooperation in tackling Indian militants in its jungles showcases its commitment to maintaining regional security.
  • Avoiding Chinese Influence: Bhutan's decision to not attend China's Belt and Road Initiative forum demonstrates its alignment with India's concerns regarding Chinese influence.

Various Cooperation Developments

  • Maitri Initiative: Bhutan was the first country to receive COVID-19 vaccines under India's Vaccine Maitri Initiative.
  • Financial Connectivity: The launch of the RuPay card and BHIM app has enhanced financial connectivity between India and Bhutan.
  • Start-Up Ecosystem: India and Bhutan have connected their start-up systems through structured workshops, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • E-Library Project: The E-Library project has facilitated education and knowledge-sharing between the two countries.

Major Irritants in Ties

  • Lack of Investment: India has not invested significantly in Bhutan and other neighbouring countries, which is critical for building genuine goodwill and trust.
  • Desire for Wider Engagement: Bhutan desires a wider engagement beyond India's borders and seeks to be treated as an equal, sovereign nation-state.


The friendship between India and Bhutan is built on shared values, trust, and mutual respect. It is essential for India to address Bhutan's aspirations, increase people-to-people contact, and respect Bhutan as an equal, sovereign nation to further strengthen the India-Bhutan friendship.

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