Bhutan in 1982

Following Britain’s victory in the 1865 Duar War, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding land to British India.

Ugyen WANGCHUCK – who had served as the de facto ruler of an increasingly unified Bhutan and had improved relations with the British toward the end of the 19th century – was named king 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. Bhutan negotiated a similar arrangement with independent India in 1949. The Indo-Bhutanese Treaty of Friendship returned to Bhutan a small piece of the territory annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India’s responsibilities in defense and foreign relations. Under a succession of modernizing monarchs beginning in the 1950s, Bhutan joined the UN in 1971 and slowly continued its engagement beyond its borders.


46,600 km2; 15% agricultural, 15% desert, waste, urban, 70% forested

Land boundaries: about 870 km


Population: 1,364,000 (July 1982), average annual growth rate 2.3%

Nationality: noun—Bhutanese (sing., pl.); adjective—Bhutanese

Ethnic divisions: 60% Bhotias, 25% ethnic Nepalese, 15% indigenous or migrant tribes

Religion: 75% Lamaistic Buddhism, 25% Buddhist-influenced Hinduism

Language: Bhotias speak various Tibetan dialects—most widely spoken dialect is Dzongkha, the official language; Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects

Literacy: insignificant

Labor force: 300,000; 99% agriculture, 1% industry; massive lack of skilled labor


Official name: Kingdom of Bhutan

Type: monarchy; special treaty relationship with India

Capital: Thimphu

Political subdivisions: 4 regions (east, central, west, south), further divided into 15-18 subdivisions

Legal system: based on Indian law and English common law; in 1964 the monarch assumed full power—no constitution existed beforehand; a Supreme Court hears appeals from district administrators; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: 17 December

Branches: appointed Ministers and indirectly elected Assembly consisting of village elders, monastic representatives, and all district and senior government administrators

Government leader: King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK

Suffrage: each family has one vote

Elections: popular elections on village level held every three years

Political parties: all parties illegal

Communists: no overt Communist presence

Other political or pressure groups: Buddhist clergy

Member of: Colombo Plan, G-77, IBRD, IFAD, IMF, NAM, UPU, UN


GNP: $116 million (FY81), $97 per capita; 3.6% growth in FY81

Agriculture: rice, barley, wheat, potatoes, fruit

Major industries: handicrafts (particularly textiles)

Electric power: 3,000 kW capacity (1981); 8 million kWh produced (1981), 6 kWh per capita

Exports: $12 million (FY81); fruit and vegetables, timber, coal, and cardamom

Imports: about $19 million (FY81); textiles, cereals, vehicles

Major trade partner: India

Aid: economic—India (FY61-72), $180 million

Budget: domestic revenue $12.9 million, expenditures $39.3 million (FY81 est.)

Monetary conversion rate: both ngultrums and Indian rupees are legal tender; 9.16 ngultrums=9.16 Indian rupees=US$1 as of October 1981

Fiscal year: 1 April-31 March

Highways: 1,304 km total; 418 km surfaced, 515 km improved, 371 km unimproved earth

Freight carried: not available, very light traffic

Civil air: no major transport aircraft

Airfields: 2 total; 2 usable; 1 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: facilities inadequate; 1,300 telephones (0.1 per 100 popl.); 6,000 est. radio sets; no TV sets; 1 AM station and no TV stations

Military manpower: males 15-49, 332,000; 178,000 fit for military service; about 16,000 reach military age (18) annually

Supply: Bhutan is dependent on India

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