The foreign policy of Bhutan is one based on the principles of peace, prosperity and friendship with all the nations. His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck describes the country’s policy as being threefold:
“Firstly, we are committed politically to a strong and loyal sense of nationhood, to ensuring peace and security of our citizens and the sovereign territorial integrity of our land. Secondly, to achieve economic self-reliance and the capacity to begin and complete any project we undertake, and thirdly to preserve the ancient religious and cultural heritage that has for so many centuries strengthened and enriched our lives.”
Following a period of self-imposed isolation, Bhutan opened its doors to the outside world by joining as a member of the Universal Postal Union in 1961 and became the member of the United Nations in 1971. Bhutan fully subscribes to the charter of the United Nations and accordingly has continued to play a committed role in all international affairs.
Bhutan’s international relations have increased both in scope and content. Bhutan has diplomatic relations with 20 countries, which includes Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Finland, India, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, Nepal, The Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden Switzerland, Thailand and the European Union.
Bhutan maintains resident diplomatic missions in New Delhi, Dhaka, Kuwait, Bangkok and the permanent Missions to the United Nations at New York and Geneva. The ambassadors of the Kingdom of Bhutan accredited to other countries are:
Ambassador in Dhaka – Maldives, Pakistan, South Korea and Sri Lanka
Ambassador in Delhi – Nepal and Japan
Ambassador in Geneva – Austria, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the European Union
Ambassador in Bangkok – Thailand
Ambassador in Kuwait – Bahrain
Relations with India
Bhutan and India enjoy close ties of friendship and cooperation. While formal diplomatic ties were established in January 1968, relations between Bhutan and India took substantive form following the visits by Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru to Bhutan in 1958 and His Majesty Late Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s visit to India in 1961. Since then, the spirit of trust and cooperation between the two countries has been growing. Over the years, they have developed a mutually beneficial relationship.
A major step towards this was made when the 336 MW Indo-Bhutan Friendship Project was commissioned at Chukha. This hydropower-harnessing project constitutes 30 percent of Bhutan’s annual revenue and it’s export to India reached 75.2 percent in 1998. Bhutan also enjoys 90 percent of it’s trade with India and will export more hydropower to India in the coming years.
The Kingdom attaches great importance to SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation). Ever since the inception of SAARC, Bhutan has firmly supported and promoted the activities, and worked towards making the South Asian Region self-reliant. Consistent with its policy of developing friendly relations with all the neighboring countries, SAARC fulfils an important foreign policy objective of Bhutan. It has also displayed a keen interest in economic cooperation and various peacemaking efforts in South Asia.