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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.
A refugee issue of over 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. 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 to 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. In July 2007, seven ministers of Bhutan’s ten-member cabinet resigned to join the political process, leaving the remaining cabinet to act as a caretaker regime until a new government assumes power following parliamentary elections. Bhutan will complete its transition to full democracy in 2008, when its first fully democratic elections to a new parliament – expected to be completed by March 2008 – and a concomitant referendum on the draft constitution will take place.
note: the Fact book population estimate is consistent with the first modern census of Bhutan, conducted in 2005; previous Fact book population estimates for this country, which were on the order of three times the total population reported here, were based on Bhutanese government publications that did not include the census (July 2008 est.)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 245,054/female 217,864)
65 years and over: 5.7% (male 21,347/female 19,157) (2011 est.)
conventional short form: Bhutan
local long form: Druk Gyalkhap
local short form: Druk Yul
geographic coordinates: 27 29 N, 89 36 E
time difference: UTC+6 (11 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
domestic: very low teledensity; domestic service is very poor especially in rural areas; wireless service available since 2003
international: country code – 975; international telephone and telegraph service via landline and microwave relay through India; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (2007)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2012)
The economy, one of the worlds smallest and least developed, is based on agriculture and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for more than 60% 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 and dependence on India’s financial assistance. 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. Model education, social, and environment programs 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. For example, the government, in its cautious expansion of the tourist sector, encourages visits by upscale, environmentally conscientious tourists. Detailed controls and uncertain policies in areas such as industrial licensing, trade, labour, and finance continue to hamper foreign investment. Hydropower exports to India had a major impact on growth in 2007.
Disputes – international:
over 100,000 Bhutanese Lhotshampas (Hindus) have been confined in seven UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees camps since 1990; Bhutan cooperates with India to expel Indian Nagaland separatists; lacking any treaty describing the boundary, Bhutan and China continue negotiations to establish a boundary alignment to resolve substantial cartographic discrepancies, the largest of which lies in Bhutan’s northwest
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