|General background: 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. 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. A refugee issue of some 100,000 Bhutanese
in Nepal remains unresolved; 90% of the refugees are
housed in seven United Nations Office of the High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) camps. Maoist Assamese separatists
from India, who have established themselves in the southeast
portion of Bhutan, have drawn Indian cross-border incursions.
Area comparative: About half the size of
Climate: Varies; tropical in
southern plains; cool winters and hot summers in central
valleys; severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas.
Terrain: Mostly mountainous with some fertile
valleys and savanna.
Ethnic groups: Bhote 50%, ethnic Nepalese
35% (includes Lhotsampas--one of several Nepalese
ethnic groups), indigenous or migrant tribes 15%
Religions: Lamaistic Buddhist 75%, Indian-
and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 25%
Language: Dzongkha (official), Bhotes speak
various Tibetan dialects, Nepalese speak various Nepalese
Government type: Monarchy; special treaty
relationship with India
Legal system: Based on Indian law and English
common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Economic overview: The economy, one of the
world's smallest and least developed, is based on
agriculture and forestry, providing the main livelihood
for more than 90% of the population. Agriculture consists
largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry.
Rugged mountains dominate the terrain and make the
building of roads and other infrastructure difficult
and expensive. The economy is closely aligned with
India's through strong trade and monetary links. The
industrial sector is technologically backward, with
most production of the cottage industry type. Most
development projects, such as road construction, rely
on Indian migrant labour. Bhutan's hydropower potential
and its attraction for tourists are key resources.
The Bhutanese Government has made some progress in
expanding the nation's productive base and improving
social welfare. Model education, social, and environment
programs in Bhutan are underway with support from
multilateral development organizations. Each economic
program takes into account the government's desire
to protect the country's environment and cultural
traditions. Detailed controls and uncertain policies
in areas like industrial licensing, trade, labour,
and finance continue to hamper foreign investment.
Major hydroelectric projects will lead expansion of
GDP in 2002 by an estimated 6%.
Communication/Telephone system: Domestic telephone
service is very poor with few telephones in use, international
telephone and telegraph service is by landline through
India; a satellite earth station was planned (1990).
Places of interest: Nestling in the heart of
the great Himalayas, it remained in self-imposed isolation
for centuries, aloof from the rest of the world. Since
its doors were cautiously opened in 1974, visitors
have been mesmerized: the environment is pristine,
the scenery and architecture awesome, the people hospitable
and charming, and the culture unique in its purity.
Travel Tips: Travel in Assam is seriously discouraged
due to intense security problems posed by Indian separatist
groups such as the United Liberation Front of Assam
(ULFA) who are seeking their own independent homeland.
This route was closed to all foreigners except Indian
travelers in late 2001.