1949 – Indo-Bhutanese Friendship Treaty
The Indo-Bhutanese treaty of 1949, for more than half a century the basis for the friendly and cordial relations between Bhutan and India, was signed on 8 August in Darjeeling by Sri Harishwar Dayal, representing India, and Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji, Yangbi Lopon Sonam and Ha Drung Jigme Pelden Dorji, representing Bhutan. The treaty was the fruit of the success of the Bhutanese delegation that went to India in 1948 to discuss Bhutan’s relationship with independent India.
Replacing the 1910 Treaty of Punakha that Bhutan had signed with the British-India, the 1949 treaty focused primarily on friendship and peaceful co-existence, and free trade and commerce between the two countries. The treaty has ten articles.
The wish to strengthen Indo-Bhutanese friendship for all times to come is reflected in the first article which states that “There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between the Government of India and the Government of Bhutan.” However, the most important provision in the treaty is its Article 2 according to which, “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.”
The other articles of the treaty deal with the increase in the annual payment of Rs 1 lakh to Rs. 5 lakhs to be paid by the Government of India to the Government of Bhutan. To mark the friendship between the two countries, India also returned to the Government of Bhutan about 32 square miles Dewangiri, today known as Deothang that had been lost to British-India during the 1865 Duar war. The treaty also establishes a free trade regime between India and Bhutan. Further, the treaty has provisions for extradition of Indian citizens in Bhutan and of Bhutanese citizens in India when required. The mechanism for settling disputes arising out of differences in interpretation or application of the treaty is also mentioned. It is also stated that the treaty shall continue in perpetuity unless terminated or modified by mutual consent.