Visit of Nehru and Indira Gandhi
The starting point of formalizing relations with Independent India came with the signing of the treaty of 1949. Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck continued to further strengthen this relationship between the two countries after his enthronement in 1952. Two years later in the summer of 1954, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck visited India where he was accorded a grand welcome. This visit was reciprocated by the visit of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958. The delegation stayed in Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro for a week. It was an epoch making event in the relations between the two countries. In his address to the Bhutanese public in Paro on 23 September 1958, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ruled out any pressure on Bhutan which might impair its independent status. Nehru said: “Some may think that since India is a great and powerful country and Bhutan a small one, the former might wish to exercise pressure on Bhutan. It is therefore, essential that I make it clear to you that our only wish is that you should remain an independent country, choosing your own way of life and taking the path of progress according to your will. At the same time we two should live with mutual goodwill. We are members of the same Himalayan family and should live as friendly neighbors helping each other. Freedom of both Bhutan and India should be safeguarded so that none from outside can do harm to it”.
Later, on 28 August 1959, Nehru stated in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) that the defense of the territorial uprightness and frontiers of Bhutan was the responsibility of the Government of India. Thus, India committed itself towards ensuring the sovereignty of Bhutan, a Kingdom that is just about 50 years old.
The visit of the Indian Prime Minister was noteworthy for it reiterated the independent status of the Young Kingdom of Bhutan. It also marked the first step towards the planned economic development besides creating a new bond of friendship between two independent neighbors.
A decade later in 1968, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi retracing her father’s footsteps visited Bhutan. In the same year, Bhutan accepted the Indian proposal to set up an envoy of the Indian Government in Thimphu. It was a significant move on the part of Bhutan as for the first time it permitted Resident Representative of another country on its soil. This was a wise decision taken by the King as the political, economic and cultural relations between the two nations were steadily improving. Finally, it led to the establishment of embassies in each other’s capital. Thus, in May 1971 Lyonpo Pema Wangchuk presented his credentials as the Ambassador of Bhutan to India while B.S. Das did in July of the same year. This strong bond and co-operation between the two nations was the seeds sown by the visits made by the Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to India and that of Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to Bhutan.