India-Bhutan Relations

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 20, 2023, 21:03

India-Bhutan relations are based on a shared culture and a sense of friendship and trust. Located between India and China, Bhutan has a common border with four Indian states which include West Bengal, Assam, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. India-Bhutan relations have been positive for a long time.

India has extended a hand of assistance to Bhutan a number of times to improve the country’s socioeconomic status. In this article, we have shared details about India-Bhutan relations, its history, and its significance.

About India-Bhutan Relations

The year 2018 marked the 50-year Golden Jubilee of India-Bhutan relations. The relationship between the two nations is built on mutual trust, understanding, and cordial cooperation. Both countries have maintained, nurtured, and strengthened their relationship through these years. To maintain India-Bhutan relations, the leaders of both countries also host frequent meetings.

India contributes frequently in terms of resources and leadership to aid Bhutan. Corresponding to the same aid, Bhutan operates four hydroelectric plants to supply energy to India. Find further details about India-Bhutan relations below.

India-Bhutan Relations



Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed



To maintain a healthy relationship between India and Bhutan

India-Bhutan Relations: History

The history of India-Bhutan relations can be traced back decades ago. The two countries enjoy a solid partnership built on trust and cooperation. But how did the India-Bhutan relationship originate? Here is the history:

  • Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were initiated in 1968.
  • The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Third King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, were both involved in the establishment of India-Bhutan relations.
  • The first office of India was opened in Thimpu, Bhutan in 1968.

India-Bhutan Treaty

  • The friendship between India and Bhutan is based on the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.
  • Both nations signed this treaty in 1949 to acknowledge India-Bhutan relations.
  • In 2007, this treaty was revised based on the present relationship between the two countries.
  • In general, India-Bhutan relations are good, and the leaders of both nations visit the other nation in good spirits frequently.

Indo-Bhutan Relations: Important Visits

India-Bhutan relations are reflected through the high-level visits by leaders to each other's countries. Some of the important visits are listed below.

  1. Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay was present during the swearing ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.
  2. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first foreign visit to Bhutan after taking charge indicating India-Bhutan relations a priority.
  3. In 2015, PM Tobgay visited Ahmedabad, Gujarat during the inaugural session of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit.
  4. In 2018, the newly elected Prime Minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering preferred India as the first country to visit.
  5. His Majesty of Bhutan strengthened India-Bhutan relations by attending the Republic Day Celebration in 2013 as the Chief Guest.
  6. The visit of His Majesty and Her Majesty of Bhutan was the first visit after the end of the standoff between India and China at the Doklam plateau.
  7. The King of Bhutan His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck paid respect to India-Bhutan relations by visiting India at the demise of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister of India.

India and Bhutan Relations: Assistance to Bhutan

Over the last few decades, India has provided consistent aid to Bhutan for socioeconomic development. The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty was signed in 1949. The Treaty includes several areas of engagement including free trade, cultural exchange, and education. Here is how India-Bhutan relations are maintained as per the Treaty.

  • India-Bhutan Relations have strengthened with cooperation on the development of Hydropower.
  • Till 2018, the Indian Government has constructed three Hydroelectric Projects (HEP) in Bhutan.
  • This includes the Punatsangchhu-I HEP, Punatsangchhu-II HEP, Mangdechhu HEP, and Kholongchu HEP.
  • Bhutan was among the first countries to receive Covishield vaccines under the Vaccine Maitri initiative under the Ministry of External Affairs. Around 150,000 Covishield vaccines were given to Bhutan in January 2021 followed by 400,000 in March 2021.

India-Bhutan Relations: Collaboration

India-Bhutan relations have a long history of cooperation. Both countries have agreed mutually on maintaining peace, free trade, and cooperation in cultural exchange, research, and education through its Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty. The high-level visits between the countries reflect the strong India-Bhutan relations.

  • On August 17, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Lotay Tshering together inaugurated the Ground Earth Station in Thimphu to strengthen India-Bhutan relations.
  • This South Asia Satellite station was constructed with the support of ISRO.
  • Currently, the Department of Information and Technology and ISRO are collaborating on a joint project of developing a small satellite for Bhutan to share knowledge on small satellite buildings.
  • Acknowledging the popular India-Bhutan relations, India launched its RuPay project in Bhutan in 2019 because of which Indian tourists can make cashless payments in Bhutan.
  • There are several integrations in the regions of sharing knowledge between research institutions, libraries, universities, agriculture, and healthcare.
  • Currently, around 28 active DrukREN (Druk Research and Education Network) members from esteemed colleges, universities, and healthcare systems in Bhutan are attaining knowledge from this integration.

India-Bhutan Relations: Challenges

There are certain challenges that threaten India-Bhutan relations, some of which are listed below.

  • Bhutan’s plan of levying entry charges for Indian tourists.
  • Bhutan has expressed concerns over environmental damage because of reckless trade and tourism.
  • India refused to allow Bhutan to join power purchasing trade with other countries such as Bangladesh. This move strained India-Bhutan relations.

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FAQs on India-Bhutan Relations

Q1. How are India-Bhutan relations in 2023?

India-Bhutan relations in 2023 are positive, with both nations enjoying each others’ cooperation in matters of trade, economics, military, and politics. India-Bhutan relations marked their 50th anniversary in 2018 and the Golden Jubilee was celebrated in a grand manner.

Q2. When were the first diplomatic India-Bhutan relations formed?

The first diplomatic India-Bhutan relations were formed in 1968. Before this, the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed by both nations in 1949 to promise mutual cooperation in diverse matters. Since then, Bhutan and India have been a constant support of each other.

Q3. What are the challenges in India-Bhutan relations?

There have been no major strains in India-Bhutan relations except the following.

  • Bhutan has expressed concerns over environmental damage because of reckless trade and tourism.
  • India’s refusal to allow Bhutan to join power purchasing trade with other countries.
  • Bhutan’s plan of levying entry charges for Indian tourists

Q4. Which leaders were involved in developing the foundation of India-Bhutan relations?

The two leaders involved in developing the foundation of India-Bhutan relations were Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, and His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, King of Bhutan. India-Bhutan relations were first established in 1968.

Q5. How are India-Bhutan relations after the Indo-Bhutan Treaty?

The India-Bhutan Relations are very strong and peaceful to date. The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty was signed in 1949, which led to a mutual commitment between the two countries. India and Bhutan recently celebrated their Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2018.

Q6. Does Bhutan support India?

Yes, Bhutan signed the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty was signed in 1949, promising political and socioeconomic support for India. The two countries enjoy good relations in present. Likewise, India also supports Bhutan and has maintained the sanctity of India-Bhutan relations.