Indo-Bhutanese Friendship Treaty of 1949
With the end of the Second World War in 1945 many colonized nations became independent in the world. In the sub continent India became free of the British dominion. Till 1947, British-India and Bhutan had been in constant contact since the war of Cooch Behar of 1772 and the first mission of George Bogle of 1774. Since then, British-India and Bhutan had shared friendly relationship as well as hostile ones. At the dawn of the 20th century and during the reign of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, the Anglo-Bhutanese relationship was at its best. With the Indian independence in 1947 Bhutan now had a neighbour with an entirely different political entity. It was now crucial for Bhutan to understand the position of independent India regarding its relations with Bhutan. Thus, in 1948 Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuck sent a Bhutanese delegation to India to discuss Bhutan’s relationship with independent India.
Ensuing from the successful 1948 visit to India, the Indo-Bhutanese treaty was signed on 8 August 1949 in Darjeeling. The Indian Government was represented by Sri Harishwar Dayal, the Political Officer in Sikkim. The Bhutanese Government was represented by Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji, Yangbi Lopon Sonam and Ha Drung Jigme Pelden Dorji. The treaty of 1949 became the basis for the two independent neighbouring nations to live in harmony sharing a mutually beneficial relationship.
The Treaty of 1949 replaced the 1910 Treaty of Punakha. It had ten Articles. The treaty focussed on the promotion of friendship and peaceful co-existence between the two countries, promotion of free trade and commerce, abstinence from interfering with the internal affairs of Bhutan but however India was to advise Bhutan on matters of external affairs. It also agreed on the free import of arms and ammunitions from or through India but not to export it. Article III dealt with the increase in the annual payment of compensation for the Duars from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 5 lakhs. By Article IV the Government of India also agreed to return to the Government of Bhutan 32 square miles of area known as Dewangiri, today known as Deothang. Further, the treaty agreed to treat the citizens of both the countries residing in each other’s territory on par with its own citizens. The treaty also laid down provisions for mutual extradition of criminals. The mechanism for settling disputes arising out of differences in interpretation or application of the treaty was also spelt out clearly. The treaty of 1948 was to continue in perpetuity unless terminated or modified by mutual consent of both the nations.
Since the signing of the Indo-Bhutanese Treaty of 1949 the relationship between Bhutan and India strengthened more than ever. This friendship became the basis through which Bhutan could well traverse in confidence along the path of political and economic development at the same time ensuring the sovereign status of the young Kingdom that was carved out just some four decades ago.