In 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land to British India. Under British influence, a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947. Two years later, a formal Indo-Bhutanese accord returned the areas of Bhutan annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India’s responsibilities in defense and foreign relations. In March 2005, King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK unveiled the government’s draft constitution – which would introduce major democratic reforms – and pledged to hold a national referendum for its approval. In December 2006, the King abdicated the throne in favor of his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel WANGCHUCK, in order to give him experience as head of state before the democratic transition. In early 2007, India and Bhutan renegotiated their treaty to allow Bhutan greater autonomy in conducting its foreign policy, although Thimphu continues to coordinate policy decisions in this area with New Delhi. Elections for seats to the country’s first parliament were completed in March 2008; the king ratified the country’s first constitution in July 2008. A refugee issue of some 40,000 Bhutanese in Nepal remains unresolved; the refugees are housed in two United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps.
Location – Southern Asia, between China and India
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