In pace, ut sapiens, aptarit idonea bello –
(In peace, like a wise man, he appropriately prepares for war)
The tiny (4,700 sq km) landlocked Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan (or Druk Yul, or Land of the Thunder Dragon) has borders of some 470 km with Tibet and 650 km with India.
It's estimated population in 2007 was around 2.300,000, although different agencies have widely different numbers. The government's estimates vary with those of the CIA World Factbook (2,005,222 in the year 2000) and the World Bank (782,000 for the same year) simply because a huge chunk of residents of Nepalese origin are not recognized as citizens by the Bhutanese government. Some 100,000 Nepalese have been driven out of the country so far. The country is predominantly Buddhist, and is ruled by the Wangchuk Dynasty.
In 1772, Bhutan invaded Cooch Behar and annexed the Duars. It was only in 1864/65, that the British drove the Bhutanese out and annexed the Duars [Treaty of Sinchu La, 1865]
India has a special relationship with the Bhutan, having signed a friendship treaty with the kingdom way back in 1949. The treaty was updated in 2007. India supported Bhutan's application for membership of the United Nations, and it was made a member of the UN in 1971.
India has guaranteed the defence of Bhutan by an unilateral declaration. China claims to have ‘suzerainty’ over Bhutan and also claims some 300 sq miles of Bhutanese territory mainly in the Chumbi valley, the Torsa Nala , and some areas opposite Ha. The Chinese also claim some grazing areas in the north.
Sino-Bhutan relations have been strained. Bhutan does not have diplomatic relations with China. Bhutan and China reached an agreement in 1998 to maintain tranquility on their border, and since then there have been some 16 rounds of talks on border issues. In 2001, the Chinese ambassador to India led a delegation to Thimpu.
The economy of Bhutan is very small, mainly hydroelectric power, agriculture, forestry and minerals. Road communications are meagre. Some 5,000 km of metalled roads were built by the Indian Border Roads Organisation.The armed forces of Bhutan number some 8,000.Their equipment is basic. The Indian Military Training Team, or IMTRAT, located at Ha is responsible for advice and training. Despite these limitations, the Bhutanese army in December 2003 drove out, on India's request, the ULFA insurgents from their part of the terai.
Lord Curzon , when Viceroy, based his foreign policy on creating buffers. Later, at the Simla Conference of 1914, Sir Henry McMahon wanted to create an outer Tibet as a buffer. This was rejected by the Chinese representative Ivan Chen. McMahon and his surveyors drew the boundary along what he considered to be the highest crest lines. [not watershed].
McMahon felt that mountain ranges make good borders. Bhutan therefore is extremely important to India as it forms a barrier and buffer to Chinese desires of expansion south of the Himalayan range. It is absolutely imperative for our security that we have a friendly and independent Bhutan. Chinese designs in Bhutan poses a threat in being to Indian security.
China is rapidly developing roads in Tibet , particularly in the Chumbi Valley. They propose to extend their railroad from Lhasa to this area. They are also building many airfields, and proposing to dam and divert rivers in Tibet. They have already built a dam across the Sutlej. This will have disastrous consequences for both India and Bangladesh. We have to take note and watch this developing situation.
In the event of [hopefully unlikely] hostilities between China and India , China is unlikely to respect Bhutanese neutrality. The defence of Bhutan therefore is irrevocably linked with the defence of India.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s and not of Sify.com.