India-Bhutan Relationships: Cordial but Concerns Remain


  • Amit Ranjan Visiting Research Fellow at Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore



China, Doklam, Fiendship Treaty, Hydropower, Royal Monetary Authority


In 2018, India and Bhutan completed 50 years of their diplomatic relationships. For a large number of South Asian observers and commentators, the two countries are considered close to each other, however, there are areas of concern. One of them is India‟s investments in Bhutan‟s hydropower sector. There is a growing disillusionment among a section of the Bhutanese population over India‟s engagements in this sector. This paper looks at the relationships between the two countries and examines the concerns of Bhutanese against India. The author argues that Bhutan is a small but strategically important country for India whose concerns must be satisfactorily addressed by New Delhi.


Bisht, M. (2012, 16 July). The rupee crunch and India-Bhutan economic engagement. IDSA. Retrieved from https:// issuebrief/ TheRupeeCrunchandIndiaBhutanEconomicEngagement_MedhaBisht _160712. Accessed on 3 April 2018.

Economic and Political Relations Between Bhutan and Neighbouring Countries A Joint Research Project of The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) and Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization (IDE/JETRO). Retrieved from http:// publicationFiles/ Monograph/ mono- Ecnmc-Pol-Rel-Bt-Nghbrng.pdf. Accessed on 15 July 2019.

Haider, S. ( 2017, 6 September). Hydropower debt, delays biggest challenge in ties with India, say Bhutan officials. The Hindu. Retrieved from Accessed on 2 April 2018.

Karthikeyan, A. (2017, 1 October). The brief supremacy of mountain king. DNA. Retrieved from Accessed on 2 April 2018.

Kohli, M. (1993). From dependency to interdependence: A study of Indo-Bhutan relations. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd.

Lamsang, T (2017, 26 July). More than Doklam issue, Bhutan worries about hydropower deficits. Tenzing Lamsang. The Indian Express. Retrieved from Accessed on 27 July 2017.

Lamsang, T. (2019, 23 March). Sunkosh stuck due to differences between Bhutan and India on implementation modality. Retrieved from https:// Accessed on 16 April 2019.

Mathou, T. (2004). Bhutan China relations: towards a new step in Himalayan politics. Bhutan Studies. Retrieved from http:// www. rAndPiglet/19-Spdr&Pglt.pdf Accessed on 17 September 2018. Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. (2007). “India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty”. Retrieved from Images/pdf/india-bhutan-treaty-07.pdf. Accessed on 27 March 2018.

Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. (2012). India-Bhutan Relations. Retrieved from „http:// Portal/ ForeignRelation/Bhutan-February- 2012. Accessed on 27 March 2018.

Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. (2017). Press Statement on Doklam disengagement understanding. Retrieved from http:// Press_ Statement_ on_Doklam_disengagement_understanding. Accessed on 21 May 2018.

Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. (2018, December 28). Joint press statement on the State visit of Prime Minister of Bhutan to India”. Retrieved from it+of+Prime+Minister+of+Bhutan+to+India+December+28+2018. Accessed on 22 January 2019.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People‟s Republic of China. Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou Visits Bhutan, 2018/07/24. Retrieved from Accessed on 3 September 2018.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan “Press Release”. (2017, June 29). Retrieved from Accessed on 3 September 2017.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan. “Press Release”. (2016, March 5). Retrieved from http:// Accessed on 17 September 2018. Outlook. (2017, 2 July). Bhutan to supply hydropower to Bangladesh via India. Retrieved from https:// / newsscroll/ bhutan-to-supply-hydropower-to-bangladesh-via-india/1090541 Accessed on 19 June 2018.

Phuntsho, K. (2013). The history of Bhutan. Noida: Random House. Ranjan, A. (2018a). India-Bhutan hydropower projects: cooperation and concerns. Retrieved from

Ranjan, A. (2018b). Power shift in Bhutan and its implications for India. Retrieved from uploads/ 2018/09/ISAS-Insights-No.-516-Power-Shift-in-Bhutan-and-itsImplication-for-India.html

Ranjan, A., & Losheini, R. (2018). India-Bhutan: affirming 50 years of relationships Retrieved from

Robinson, F. (1989). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and The Maldives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Roy, S. (2018, 24 July). China minister arrives in Bhutan on first top-level visit after Doklam. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https:// Accessed on 24 July 2018.

Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, Government of Bhutan, Annual report 2016-17. Retrieved from https:// RMA% 20Publication/Annual%20Report/annual%20report%20%2020162017.pdf on 28 March 2018.

Shubham, (2014, 18 June). Understanding India-Bhutan relations. One India. Retrieved from https:// feature/ understanding-india-bhutan-relations-1467521.html Accessed on 27 March 2018. Stobdan, P. (2017, 14 July). India‟s real problem lies in its Bhutan policy, Not the border‟ The Wire. Retrieved from https:// diplomacy/india-china-doklam-real-problem-bhutan. Accessed on 2 April 2018.

Tala Hydroelectric Project. 2018. Retrieved from projects/tala/ . Accessed on 15 June 2019.

The Bhutanese. (2015, 13 June). Indian media should do their homework on Bhutan‟s 2003 Operation All Clear. Retrieved from http:// .Accessed on 27 March 2018.

Vasudha Foundation. (2016). A study of the India-Bhutan Energy Cooperation Agreements and the implementation of hydropower projects in Bhutan. Retrieved from Accessed on 28 March 2018.