Foreign Relations of Bhutan
His Majesty the King is widely traveled and has paid state visits to a number of countries, particularly while attending meetings of the Non-Aligned States and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
The realization of Bhutan’s geo-strategic importance between two Asian giants – China and India – has provided profound and continual impact on its foreign policy.
Bhutan raised its representation in India to the ambassadorial level in 1971. Later, on August 8, 1978, the name of its diplomatic office in New Delhi was changed from Royal Bhutan Mission to Royal Bhutan Embassy to further reflect its sovereign status. In 1980, the Royal Bhutan Embassy was established in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Bhutanese residential diplomatic missions are located in New Delhi, UN Headquarters in New York, UN Offices in Geneva, Kuwait, Bangkok and Dhaka. Only India and Bangladesh have their embassies in Thimphu.
Diplomatic relations with all of the South Asian countries as well as several countries in the Middle East and Europe were also instituted. The Austrian Coordination Bureau, Canadian Office, Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Swiss Association for International Cooperation (HELVETAS), Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) maintain their resident representatives in Thimphu.
Bhutan became the member of Economic & Social Commission for Asia & Pacific (ESCAP) in 1972. In 1973, Bhutan joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Membership in the NAM ensured the “national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, racism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference as well as against bloc politics.”
In December 1985, Bhutan became a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that provides a platform for the people of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding.
As a member of more than 150 international organizations Bhutan is no more an isolated nation. With sound foreign relations and the farsighted leadership of His Majesty the Fourth King, Bhutan has been able to experience rapid socio-economic progress while at the same time preserve the unique identity of the nation. Guided by its development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan has always drawn a clear line between modernization and westernization.