Maldives and Bhutan, Relations with

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MALDIVES AND BHUTAN, RELATIONS WITH With Maldives and Bhutan, India has evolved harmonious relations virtually free of bilateral problems. Since 1965, when the Maldives became independent, its relations with India have developed through close cooperation and mutual understanding. In 1976 the two countries reached an agreement to demarcate their maritime boundary. Considering that the atoll islands of Maldives are inherently weak and vulnerable, India has often promised to respect its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Maldives has reciprocated by respecting India's regional security sensitivities by, for example, refusing to lease its strategically important Gan Island to foreign powers during the cold war period. On its part, India remained responsive to the small state's security needs and provided prompt military assistance to foil a coup in 1988. During Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee's visit to Male in September 2002, India offered to train and equip the Maldivian security forces in coastal defense.

India has extended a variety of economic and technical assistance, helping to develop infrastructure in Maldives. Its first project was a fish canning plant. In 1977 India set up the Maldivian airlines and modernized the country's only airport. Under the 1986 economic and technical cooperation agreement, India established a 200-bed general hospital, a nurse training center and a coronary unit and extended assistance in telecommunications, meteorology, and the preservation of ancient monuments. In January 1990 India helped Maldives establish an environmental program to arrest the greenhouse effect as well as a training program for civil servants in its foreign office. Over the years, India's assistance has increased to include information technology, tourism, and agriculture.

Similarly, India-Bhutan relations represent a rare case of harmony and friendship between two unequal states. Unlike Maldives, which has not had a friendship treaty with India, Bhutan's special relations are formalized by the treaty of perpetual peace and friendship signed on 8 August 1949. Clause 2 of the treaty is central to their relationship. It pertains to India's commitment to non-interference in the internal administration of Bhutan which, on its part, has agreed to be guided by the former's advice. On matters of defense, Bhutan has agreed to import its arms either from or through India. The treaty has established a bilateral free trade regime and includes provision for extradition of each other's citizens. It is a treaty in perpetuity unless terminated or modified by mutual consent. Bhutan has continued to adhere to the treaty provisions, notwithstanding some criticisms and unofficial demands for its revision.

Being a landlocked, underdeveloped country, Bhutan depends heavily on India for its economic support and development. India fully financed Bhutan's first two five-year plans, and subsequent plans received partial funding. India has undertaken several development projects, including the significant Chukha hydroelectric project at the cost of 2,440 million rupees (Rs. 244 crore). About 40 percent of Bhutan's external revenue is collected from the sale of electricity to India. Bhutan receives about 50 percent of the total Indian aid earmarked for the developing countries. India has provided over thirteen transit routes to Bhutan; trade with India constitutes about 70 percent of Bhutan's imports and 90 percent of its exports, though Bhutan is seeking to expand its commercial interactions with other countries. The five decades of India-Bhutan relations have been characterized by warmth and friendship.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

See alsoSouth Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)


Kohli, Manorama. From Dependency to Interdependence: AStudy of Indo-Bhutan Relations. New Delhi: Vikas, 1993.

Phadnis, Urmila, and Ela Dutt Luithui. Maldives: Winds of Change in an Atoll State. New Delhi: South Asian, 1986.