Bhutan’s foreign policy aims to continue to develop and maintain friendly relations with all countries in the region and beyond. Bhutan became a member of the United Nations in 1971, though it does not have diplomatic relations with any of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including The United States.
Bhutan enjoys good diplomatic relations with seven European countries, which along with Japan form a group called ‘Friends of Bhutan’. They are Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Bhutan also has diplomatic ties with Canada and Australia along with Asian countries like Bahrain, South Korea, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives.
Warm relations and ties between India and Bhutan go back since a long time. India is Bhutan’s largest trade and development partner, providing significant amounts of foreign aid and investment. Bilateral relations have always been strong since the year 1949, thanks to the ‘Treaty of Peace and Friendship’. However, after the new treaty which was signed in February 2007, the clause pertaining to foreign policy guidelines has been removed and allows Bhutan to purchase military equipment from other countries as well.
Bhutan and China do not have diplomatic ties, although both countries have engaged in nineteen rounds of high-level talks regarding border disputes. However, in early 1999, the Bhutanese Foreign Minister visited China and both countries have signed an agreement committing them to a ‘relationship of peace and tranquility’, but without formal diplomatic relations and presently the two nations continue to work for peaceful and cordial resolutions of the disputes.
Bilateral relations between Bhutan and Nepal were established in 1983. However, they continue to negotiate for a peaceful solution to the current refugee crisis in which over thousands of refugees, who claim Bhutanese citizenship reside in several camps in Nepal.