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India –  Bhutan bilateral relations

India – Bhutan bilateral relations


The bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayas, and the Republic of India have been historically profound, marked by a “special relationship.” This article explores the unique ties between these two nations, highlighting Bhutan’s status as a protected state rather than a protectorate of India and India’s influential role in Bhutan’s foreign policy, defence, and commerce. Bhutan stands as the largest beneficiary of India’s foreign aid, strengthening the bonds of friendship.

Historical Background

Special Relationship: Bhutan and India share a “special relationship,” characterized by Bhutan’s status as a protected state under India’s guidance. This relationship is unique, as Bhutan retains its sovereignty while receiving support and guidance from India in various key areas.

Historical Foundations: The history of their relationship dates back to the signing of a treaty in 1910, which made Bhutan a protectorate of British India. This treaty allowed British India to play a role in guiding Bhutan’s foreign affairs and defence.

Mutual Recognition: Bhutan was one of the earliest nations to recognize India’s independence in 1947. This gesture symbolized the beginning of a close and enduring friendship between the two countries.

Security Concerns: The annexation of Tibet in 1950 by the People’s Republic of China and the resulting border disputes with Bhutan and India underscored the importance of close ties with Bhutan and Nepal in India’s “Himalayan frontier” security policy.

Geographical Proximity: India shares a 605-kilometer (376-mile) border with Bhutan, making it a key neighbor. India’s role extends to being Bhutan’s largest trading partner, accounting for a significant portion of Bhutan’s trade, with 98 per cent of its exports and 90 per cent of its imports facilitated through India.


The enduring and unique relationship between India and Bhutan is characterized by trust, cooperation, and mutual respect. Bhutan’s status as a protected state highlights the supportive role India plays in guiding its development and ensuring its sovereignty. As the largest beneficiary of India’s foreign aid, Bhutan continues to benefit from this special relationship, which extends beyond diplomatic and economic dimensions to encompass shared values and enduring friendship.

To know more about bilateral relations between India and Bhutan, please download our booklet.

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