India and Bhutan share customarily warm and friendly relationship which is fairly trouble free when compared with other South Asian neighbours. Although in 1949, India recognized full sovereign status of Bhutan and treaty of 1949 was freely negotiated by Bhutan, time and again, demand of its review has taken place considerably. The most important provision was embodied in Article 2, “that the government of India would undertake to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of Government of India regarding its external relations”.
It is, incorrect to assume that Bhutan signed 1949 treaty under any kind of diplomatic or political pressures from the side of India. Since Bhutan had lived in a state of isolation, largely because of geographical reasons, but also due to psycho-cultural inhibitions which the people in the region had developed has adjusted to accommodate. While Bhutan’s main concern was restoration of the Dewangiri hill strip on the frontier with India. Bhutan got what it wanted: autonomy in internal affairs while agreeing to be guided by India in external affairs.
In keeping with abiding ties of close friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and India, the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Government of the Republic of India cooperate closely that neither Government allowed the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of other. Irrespective of contemporary geopolitical pulls and pressure, the Kingdom of Bhutan remained unshaken. When His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuk personally led his troops to fight against insurgent groups of North East, India, it meant to protect security of both India and Bhutan.
In spite of it, after signing the treaty of 2007, Bhutan and India entered in a new phase of partnership. The treaty can also be called framework for future interaction, highlighting cooperative partnership between Indo- Bhutan and is perhaps the only bilateral engagement in South Asia which has transcendent beyond us. And Bhutan’s economy has grown substantially over the past years. Among India’s South Asian neighbours, Bhutan remains as an example of bilateralism in India’s neighbourhoods. It remains its largest trading partners. India from time to time has supported Bhutan’s developmental effort. Even liquidity crunch has been haunting Bhutan for the past few years, but it has managed it so far with Indian intervention.
The visit of Prime Minister Modi voiced emphatically when he spoke to the joint session of Bhutan’s parliament during his first foreign visit after assuming the office. For example, his point on “Terrorism Divides, Tourism Unites” highlights the importance of creating a web of development plans with Bhutan. He also made commitment to help Bhutan in transactional area such as in education, sports, e-libraries, Himalayan Studies etc. However, these areas are to craft the special relation India and Bhutan to cement further in bilateral engagement in South Asia.
Bhutan and India, however, have developed a good tie that is functional and operational when looked from the perspective of state behaviours’. This difference is very striking when put into contrast to all the countries in South Asia. The two countries have salvaged not into impeding crisis, and have creep into the relationship. There has been understanding in the ominous trends which in fact was important to grasp the issues from a broader perspective that shapes the processes at work. Indo- Bhutan relationships are successful when the mutual differences get resolved without the need for either side making compromises on its core national values and interests with the continuing friendship of brotherhood has cemented mutual trust and confidence “Bharat to Bhutan, Bhutan to Bharat”.
-Lobzang Dorji, freelance researcher