Foreign relations of Bhutan

Bhutan has diplomatic relations with 54 of 193 member states of the United Nations and the European Union.[1][2] Bhutan's limited number of such relations, including the absence of formal relations with any of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, is part of a deliberate isolationist policy of limiting foreign influence in the state.[3] This stance has been safeguarded by close relations with India, of which Bhutan has previously been considered a protected state.[3][4]

Diplomatic relations of Bhutan

In 1971, sponsored by India, Bhutan began to develop its foreign relations by joining the United Nations. In 1981, Bhutan joined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, followed by the World Health Organization and UNESCO in 1982. It is also an active member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Bhutan is currently a member of 45 international organizations.[5]

Under Article 20 of the Constitution of Bhutan enacted in 2008, Bhutan's foreign relations fall under the purview of the Druk Gyalpo on the advice of the Executive, namely the Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Lhengye Zhungtshog including the Minister of Foreign Affairs.[6]

Diplomatic relationsEdit

Bhutan has embassies in Bangladesh, Belgium, India, Kuwait, Australia and Thailand.[1] Conversely, only Bangladesh, India, and Kuwait have embassies in Thimphu. Moreover, Denmark has a representative office in Thimphu.[7] Israel is the latest country to establish diplomatic relations with Bhutan. The following is a list of countries which have established diplomatic relations with Bhutan.

Bhutan's foreign relations with European countries has also improved in recent years, as they have now have an embassy in the city with a main United Nations Headquarters, Vienna. Austria is a landlocked country in the heart of western Europe, showing how much Bhutan's relations have improved even with these countries.

# Country[1] Date
1   India January 1968
2   Bangladesh 12 April 1973
3   Kuwait 23 May 1983
4     Nepal 3 June 1983
5   Maldives 20 July 1984
6   Netherlands 10 June 1985
  European Union 9 August 1985
7   Denmark 13 August 1985
8   Sweden 27 August 1985
9   Switzerland 16 September 1985
10   Norway 5 November 1985
11   Japan 28 March 1986
12   Finland 1 May 1986
13   Sri Lanka 13 May 1987
14   South Korea 24 September 1987
15   Pakistan 15 December 1988
16   Austria 8 May 1989
17   Thailand 14 November 1989
18   Bahrain 6 January 1992
19   Australia 14 September 2002
20   Singapore 20 September 2002
21   Canada 25 June 2003
22   Belgium 21 January 2009
23   Brazil 21 September 2009
24   Afghanistan 20 April 2010
25   Spain 11 February 2011
26   Cuba 26 September 2011
27   Fiji 18 November 2011
28   Morocco 21 November 2011
29   Luxembourg 1 December 2011
30   Czech Republic 2 December 2011
31   Serbia 9 December 2011
32   Indonesia 15 December 2011
33   Mongolia 18 January 2012
34   Vietnam 19 January 2012
35   Myanmar 1 February 2012
36   Argentina 14 March 2012
37   Costa Rica 21 March 2012
38   Andorra 23 March 2012
39   Mauritius 2 July 2012
40   Eswatini 21 August 2012
41   United Arab Emirates 13 September 2012
42   Slovenia 13 September 2012
43   Slovakia 26 September 2012
44   Armenia 26 September 2012
45   Turkey 26 September 2012
46   Egypt 14 November 2012
47   Kazakhstan 20 November 2012
48   Poland 29 November 2012
49   Colombia 21 December 2012
50   Tajikistan 24 January 2013
51   Azerbaijan 7 February 2013
52   Oman 15 March 2013
53   Germany 25 November 2020
54   Israel 12 December 2020



Bangladesh is one of only three nations to maintain a residential embassy in Thimphu. Bhutan was the first country in the world to recognize Bangladeshi independence in 1971. The two states have agreed to develop hydropower in the Himalayas, as well as initiate free trade and transshipment through Bangladeshi ports. They also cooperate in water resources management. Both Bhutan and Bangladesh are members of SAARC and BIMSTEC.


Bhutan has no diplomatic relations with its northern neighbor, the People's Republic of China, and is one of the few countries to not recognise or have relations with either of the Two Chinas. The border between Bhutan and the PRC has been closed since the invasion of Tibet in 1950, causing an influx of refugees. The border also remains undelineated; in 1961 China published a map that altered the traditional border.[8] Tensions have since lessened, especially after the signing of a 1998 agreement on border peace and tranquility, the first bilateral agreement between China and Bhutan. Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations, Bhutan has also maintained an Honorary Consul in Macau since 2000 and Hong Kong since 2004.

In late 2005, Bhutan claimed that PLA soldiers were building roads and bridges within Bhutanese territory. Bhutanese Foreign Minister Khandu Wangchuk took up the matter with Chinese authorities after the issue was raised in the Bhutanese parliament. In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang of the People's Republic of China has said that the border remains in dispute and that the two sides are continuing to work for a peaceful and cordial resolution of the dispute.[9] The Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel has said that China might use the roads to further Chinese claims along the border.[10]


Historically, ties with India have been close. Both countries signed a first ever Friendship treaty in 1865 between Bhutan and British India. When Bhutan became a monarchy, British India was the first country to recognize it and renewed the treaty in 1910. Bhutan was the first country to recognize Indian independence and renewed the age old treaty with the new government in 1949, including a clause that India would assist Bhutan in foreign relations. On February 8, 2007, the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty[11] was substantially revised under the Bhutanese King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. In the Treaty of 1949 Article 2 read as "The Government of India undertakes to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations."[12] In the revised treaty this now reads as, "In keeping with the 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 shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other." The revised treaty also includes in it the preamble "Reaffirming their respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity", an element that was absent in the earlier version. The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007 strengthens Bhutan's status as an independent and sovereign nation.

There also exists bi-lateral agreement between Bhutanese and Indian Government where-in citizens of both nations can travel freely in other country without passport and visa.


Bhutan and Israel established formal diplomatic relations in 2020, with the key areas of cooperation being economic, technological and agricultural development.[13]


Nepal and Bhutan established relations in 1983. However, since 1992, relations with Nepal have been tense due to the repatriation of refugees from Bhutan.[14]


The Philippines and Bhutan have no formal relations yet. The Philippines has an embassy in New Delhi, India as representative to dialogues with Bhutan. Numerous senators and high-profile personalities from the Philippines have visited Bhutan and have been pushing for the Gross National Happiness to also be applied in the Philippines, citing its effectiveness and efficiency in nation-building, environmental and cultural conservation, and human rights upholding. Filipino senator Loren Legarda, a United Nations Global Champion for Resilience, has been pushing for greater diplomatic relations between the two countries. In September 2014, the Prime Minister of Bhutan visited the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank headquarters in Manila.[15] In 2018, the Philippines sent its engineers to Bhutan's capital in a bid to develop Bhutan's space program that will be launched in May.[16][failed verification]

South KoreaEdit

Bhutan and South Korea established formal relations on 24 September 1987.[17] South Korea granted Bhutan a total of US$6.21 million in aid between 1987 and 2012. Imports into South Korea are about $382,000 and imports into Bhutan are about $3.27 million (as of 2012).[18]

Other countriesEdit



Both countries established diplomatic relations in 2012.[19] Bhutan and Turkey cooperate through their respective embassies in New Delhi.[20] Trade volume between the two countries was 1.58 million USD in 2018 (Bhutanese exports/imports: 1.48/0.1 million USD).[19]

United StatesEdit

The United States and Bhutan have no official diplomatic ties, however, they both maintain "warm, informal relations" with each other.[21]

Bhutan is represented by its permanent mission in the United Nations, while the American embassy in New Delhi is currently accredited for Bhutan.

Transnational issuesEdit

Bhutan has relations with other nations based on transnational issues. Among these issues are extradition, terrorism, and refugees. To a limited extent, Bhutanese law provides frameworks for cooperation with countries which Bhutan has no formal mission.


Bhutan has a legislated policy on extradition of criminals, both to and from the kingdom. Any nation, with or without formal relations, may request the extradition of fugitives who abscond to Bhutan. The Extradition Act requires nations to provide "all relevant evidence and information" about the accused, after which the Royal Government may in its discretion refer the matter to the High Court of Bhutan. The Court may then issue a summons or warrant, conduct an inquiry, and collect evidence, holding the accused for a maximum of 30 days. Alternatively, the Royal Government may refer the matter to the courts for trial within Bhutan. Bhutan imposes punishments for offenses committed in treaty states generally, and for offenses in other states resulting in return to Bhutan. Offenses are weighed according to gravity, determined by a schedule and two-part test: extraditable offenses are those enumerated (including murder, theft, forgery, and smuggling), or which in Bhutan would be punished by a prison term exceeding twelve months.[22] All felonies in Bhutan are punishable by a minimum of three years' imprisonment.[23]

Bhutan will refuse requests for extradition if the Royal Government or its courts determine the person is accused of a political offense.[22]

International cooperation against terrorismEdit

Bhutan cooperates with India to expel Nagaland separatists; lacking any treaty describing the boundary, Bhutan and China continue negotiations to establish a common boundary alignment to resolve territorial disputes arising from substantial cartographic discrepancies, the largest of which lie in Bhutan's northwest and along the Chumbi salient.

Refugee resettlementEdit

The U.S. has offered to resettle 60,000 of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin now living in seven U.N. refugee camps in southeastern Nepal. Six other nations—Australia, Canada, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand and Denmark—have offered to resettle 10,000 each.[24]

Other countries also operate resettlement programs in the camps.[25] Norway has already settled 200 Bhutanese refugees, and Canada has agreed to accept up to 5,000 through to 2012.[26]

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c "Bilateral relations". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bhutan. Retrieved 4 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "Israel normalizes ties with Bhutan". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2020-12-12.
  3. ^ a b Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy. "Bhutan doesn't have diplomatic ties with any of the 5 UNSC permanent members". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2021-10-19.
  4. ^ Bedjaoui, Mohammed (1991), International Law: Achievements and Prospects, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, pp. 51–, ISBN 92-3-102716-6: "The Treaty of Friendship of 8 August 1949 between Bhutan and India is an example of the creation of a protected State, Bhutan, with a quite loose relationship to the protecting State, India. By the terms of this Treaty of Friendship, Bhutan agreed to follow the guidance given by India in so far as external relations were concerned. India was not granted the power to exercise diplomatic rights on behalf of Bhutan and this way Bhutan remained in charge of its foreign policy."
  5. ^ "Foreign Relation and Trade". Bhutan Portal online. Government of Bhutan. Archived from the original on 2011-04-16. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  6. ^ "Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan (English)" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 2008-07-18. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  7. ^ "Foreign Missions". Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  8. ^ Savada, Andrea Matles; Harris, George Lawrence (1993). Nepal and Bhutan: country studies. Federal Research Division. p. 332. The specter of renewed Chinese claims to Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal was raised after China published a map in 1961 that showed alterations of traditional Sino-Bhutanese and other Himalayan borders in Beijing's favor
  9. ^ "中国不丹同意平等友好协商早日解决边界问题" [China and Bhutan agree to equal and friendly consultations to resolve the border issue as soon as possible]. News. 2005-12-01. Archived from the original on 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  10. ^ Hindustan times article Archived December 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty" (PDF). Government of India.
  12. ^ "Treaty of 1949". Government of India. 1949.
  13. ^ France-Presse, Agence (2020-12-12). "Israel establishes 'formal diplomatic relations' with Bhutan". the Guardian. Retrieved 2020-12-15.
  14. ^ "Country Profile: Nepal" (PDF). Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. November 2005. Retrieved November 5, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ "Bhutan Prime Minister Visits ADB to Celebrate Three-Decade Partnership". 2014-09-05.
  16. ^ "BHUTAN-1 expected to be in space by May".
  17. ^ "Press Release" (PDF). Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  18. ^ "Bhutan". Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Government of South Korea. Archived from the original on 2015-09-04. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  19. ^ a b "Economic Relations between Turkey and Bhutan". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey.
  20. ^ "Economic Development and Social Changes in Bhutan." pp. 82-99 in Urmila Phadnis, S.D. Muni, and Kalim Bahadur (eds.), Domestic Conflicts in South Asia. New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 1986.
  21. ^ "U.S. Relations With Bhutan". United States Department of State. 2020-07-29. Retrieved 2021-10-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ a b "Extradition Act, 1989 (1991)" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 1991. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  23. ^ "Penal Code of Bhutan" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 2004-08-11. Retrieved 2011-01-21.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "First of 60,000 refugees from Bhutan arrive in U.S." CNN. 25 March 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  25. ^ IRIN (10 November 2008). "Nepal: Bhutanese refugees find new life beyond the camps". UNHCR Refworld. Archived from the original on 2012-10-08. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  26. ^ Government of Canada (9 December 2008). "Resettling Bhutanese Refugees – Update on Canada's Commitment". Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Archived from the original on 21 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-26.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  This article incorporates public domain material from U.S. Bilateral Relations Fact Sheets. United States Department of State.