Nation at a Glance - Bhutan

History

Following Britain’s victory in the 1865 Duar War, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding land to British India. Ugyen WANGCHUCK - who had served as the de facto ruler of an increasingly unified Bhutan and had improved relations with the British toward the end of the 19th century - was named king 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. Bhutan negotiated a similar arrangement with independent India after 1947. Two years later, a formal Indo-Bhutanese accord returned to Bhutan a small piece of the territory annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India's responsibilities in defense and foreign relations. Under a succession of modernizing monarchs beginning in the 1950s, Bhutan joined the UN in 1971 and slowly continued its engagement beyond its borders.In March 2005, King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK unveiled the government's draft constitution - which introduced major democratic reforms - and held a national referendum for its approval. In December 2006, the King abdicated the throne in favor of his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel WANGCHUCK. In early 2007, India and Bhutan renegotiated their treaty, eliminating the clause that stated that Bhutan would be "guided by" India in conducting its foreign policy, although Thimphu continues to coordinate closely with New Delhi. Elections for seating the country's first parliament were completed in March 2008; the king ratified the country's first constitution in July 2008. Bhutan experienced a peaceful turnover of power following parliamentary elections in 2013, which resulted in the defeat of the incumbent party. The disposition of some 18,000 refugees of the roughly 100,000 who fled or were forced out of Bhutan in the 1990s - and who are housed in two UN refugee camps in Nepal - remains unresolved.

Location: Southern Asia, between China and India

Border Countries: China 477 km, India 659 km

Total Area: 38,394 sq km Land: 38,394 sq km Water: 0 sq km

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

Natural resources: Timber, hydropower, gypsum, calcium carbonate

Land use: Agricultural land: 13.6%arable land 2.6%; permanent crops 0.3%; permanent pasture 10.7% Forest: 85.5% Other: 0.9% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Ngalop (also known as Bhote) 50%, ethnic Nepalese 35% (includes Lhotsampas - one of several Nepalese ethnic groups), indigenous or migrant tribes 15%

Languages: Sharchhopka 28%, Dzongkha (official) 24%, Lhotshamkha 22%, Other 26% (includes foreign languages) (2005 est.)

Religions: Lamaistic Buddhist 75.3%, Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 22.1%, Other 2.6% (2005 est.)

Population: 750,125 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 64.9%; Male: 73.1%; Female: 55% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 20 districts (dzongkhag, singular and plural); Bumthang, Chhukha, Chirang, Daga, Gasa, Geylegphug, Ha, Lhuntshi, Mongar, Paro, Pemagatsel, Punakha, Samchi, Samdrup Jongkhar, Shemgang, Tashigang, Tashi Yangtse, Thimphu, Tongsa, Wangdi Phodrang

Economy: Bhutan's small economy is based largely on hydropower, agriculture, and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for more than half the population. Because rugged mountains dominate the terrain and make the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive, industrial production is primarily of the cottage industry type. The economy is closely aligned with India's through strong trade and monetary links and is dependent on India for financial assistance and migrant laborers for development projects, especially for road construction. Bhutan also signed a pact in December 2014 to expand duty-free trade with Bangladesh. Multilateral development organizations administer most educational, social, and environment programs, and take 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 environmentally conscientious tourists. Complicated controls and uncertain policies in areas such as industrial licensing, trade, labor, and finance continue to hamper foreign investment. Bhutan’s largest export - hydropower to India - could spur sustainable growth in the coming years if Bhutan resolves chronic delays in construction. Bhutan’s hydropower exports comprise 40% of total exports and 25% of the government’s total revenue. Bhutan currently taps only 6.5% of its 24,000-megawatt hydropower potential and is behind schedule in building 12 new hydropower dams with a combined capacity of 10,000 megawatts by 2020 in accordance with a deal signed in 2008 with India. The high volume of imported materials to build hydropower plants has expanded Bhutan's trade and current account deficits. Bhutan also signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh and India in July 2017 to jointly construct a new hydropower plant for exporting electricity to Bangladesh.

Agriculture - products: Rice, corn, root crops, citrus; dairy products, eggs

Industries: Cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages, calcium carbide, tourism

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