Bhutan and Tibet have had relations going back centuries. It was a Tibetan monk who united Bhutan in the seventeenth century. Since then, Bhutan has been invaded repeatedly from the north making Bhutan permanently wary of Tibet. When one speaks of relations with China, the Bhutanese take it primarily to mean relations with Tibet. The hereditary monarchs chose to keep Bhutan in self-imposed isolation, due to their not so happy experiences with Tibet and the British India. After Tibet became part of China, unofficial relations continued. But after the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet and the subsequent destruction of religious places in Tibet, Bhutan shut down its trade office in Lhasa. There is an official ban on trade with Tibet. Boundary talks commenced in 1984; there are still 3 stretches where demarcation has not been completed. Doklam which was in the news last year is one sector where demarcation has not been completed. Like with other United Nations Security Council permanent members, Bhutan doesn't have diplomatic relations with China. Chinese goods enter Bhutan through other countries. Chinese tourists are visiting Bhutan in thousands in recent years. Monarchs do not favour relations with China but many among the younger generation and some sections of elected representatives see economic benefit in opening up to China. The talk will focus on some of these issues.
About the Speaker
VP Haran joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1980 after working in the private sector in finance and accounts. He studied Russian in Moscow, 1982-83. He was then posted in Kabul, Colombo, Brussels followed by his appointment as the Deputy Permanent Representative to WTO, Geneva in 2000. In 2003, Amb. Haran moved to Kathmandu as DCM. He was Ambassador of India to Syria (2009-14) and to Bhutan (2013-14). His interests include relations with neighbours, developments in West Asia, primarily Syria, and international trade. He writes occasionally on Syria and Bhutan.
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