Bhutan is a landlocked nation in southern Asia that borders India and China. It is a small nation in size and population. It is larger than Maryland and about half the size of Indiana. The landscape varies greatly from the Himalayan mountains of the north, to the jungles, savanna and river valleys in the south. It’s Capital city is Thimphu, with a population of 152,000 it is Bhutan’s largest urban center.
Since 1980, 45% of the population has moved into urban areas. This falls in line with other developing nations as citizens make the decision to move towards urban centers where more economic opportunity lies. Increased urbanization is leading to deforestation as new roads and buildings expand outward from city centers. Fuel wood is also a contributing factor to deforestation due to it being the primary method of heating households. Increases in mining for sand and gypsum for household construction supporting urban expansion have also led to land degradation and deforestation. The final major cause of deforestation is clearcutting for livestock use, mainly cattle and yaks. With the loss of prime agricultural land to urbanization less land is available for food production.
Improved technology is allowing farmers to produce more on less land. For instance, wheat production has doubled since 2005 despite losing 50% of the land used to produce it. At the legislative level, support for sustainable land use policies are beginning to gain traction as more people are being educated on the trends that are occurring. Bhutan’s population of 758,288 consists of 50% Ngalop and 35% ethnic Nepalese with the remaining 15% being indigenous or migrant tribes. There has been conflict between ethnic Nepalese and the government throughout history, however steps were taken during the 1970s and 1980s to effectively strip citizenship away from them. During a nationwide census in 1985, proof of land ownership prior to 1958 was required to receive citizenship. Those who could provide no proof were allowed to reapply for citizenship later on, however many failed to meet the new requirements and were made illegal immigrants.
As a result of these changes to law there is no citizenship just by being born within the border. Citizenship is granted by descent through the paternal lineage. There can be no dual citizenship and you must be a resident for 10 years to be able to apply for citizenship. In the 1990s a majority of Nepali-speakers were forced into exile. Many of those were placed in refugee camps within Nepal, 41,462 were eventually resettled into foreign countries, with the United States resettling 35,279 of them. Over 75% of the population are followers of Buddhism and 22% follow Indian or Nepalese Hinduism. Due to the Buddhist majority, civil law is based on Buddhist religious law. The government policy is to promote harmony between Buddhism and Hinduism.
Despite being the State religion for centuries no effort has been made to convert Hindus to Buddhism. However, there are some examples of provisions to prevent outside influence of other religions, “The Law bars non-Bhutanese individuals who are married to citizens from promoting a religion other than Buddhism. The 1980 Marriage Act also states that a Bhutanese married to a non-Bhutanese shall not be entitled to facilities enjoyed by other citizens, including the distribution of land, cash loans, and education or training abroad.
” The previous King also began publicly participating in Hindu holidays and celebrations as a show of the compatibility of the two religions. Government funds were also made available to renovate Hindu temples in the poorer southern regions to boost the morale of Hindus there. The political structure of the Kingdom of Bhutan is a Constitutional Monarchy consisting of three branches; Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
The chief of state is King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The title of King (Druk Gyalpo) is hereditary and was most recently passed down when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated the throne in 2006. The Prime Minister is nominated by the leading party in the National Assembly (Tshogdu). The current Prime Minister is Tshering Tobgay. The Prime Minister oversees the Council of Ministers (Lhengye Zhungtshog) whose members are nominated by the King and approved by the National Assembly.
The Legislative Branch is a bicameral Parliament (Chi Tshog). It has two houses the National Assembly and the National Council (Gyelyong Tshogde). Members of both houses are elected to serve 5-year terms. The National Council members run independent of a party system, while the National Assembly has several parties.The Judicial Branch has a Supreme Court with five justices. The Supreme Court members (Drangpons) serve 10-year terms or until age 65, whichever occurs first.
The Chief Justice of Bhutan serves a shorter 5-year term or until age 65. The Supreme Court has the final say in any matter regarding the constitution. Subordinate to the Supreme Court is the High Court, followed by District and Sub-District Courts. The political parties of Bhutan and their leaders include the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), led by Dasho Neten Zangmo. The Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (DPT), led by Pema Gyamtsho. The Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT), led by Lily Wangchuk. The Druk Nymarup Tshogpa (DNT) led by Tandin Dorji. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Tshering Tobgay.
While not all of these parties are represented at the national level, some have representation in district level government. Political opposition groups include Druk National Congress (DNC), led by Gedun Choepheli in exile. United Front for Democracy (UFD) exiled. United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), led by Jatuporn Prompan.
Bhutan borders China and India and its major relations lie with these two countries. Bhutan experiences ongoing border disputes with China. These disputes are primarily in Bhutan’s west along China’s Chumbi salient. (ciaworld factbook) Geographically Bhutan is cradled in the Northeast of India and has the effect of being a small buffer between China and India. It is important to both China and India to wield influence over Bhutan. A peaceful relationship exists between India and Bhutan, with Bhutan receiving economic aid, infrastructure and military training from India. India benefits from this relationship by importing electricity from the hydropower stations they are investing in.
The US and Bhutan have no formal diplomatic relations, although frequent informal contact is maintained via the US embassy in New Delhi (India) and Bhutan’s Permanent Mission to the UN. The Military of Bhutan is known as the Royal Bhutan Army. It includes two groups, the Royal Bodyguard and the Royal Bhutan Police. While military service is voluntary, militia training is compulsory for males aged 20-25 covering a 3-year period.
RBA has a strength of 8,000. Equipment includes 81mm mortars, AK-101 AK-104, FN-FAL, INSAS and G-3 assault rifles and Browning Hi-Power pistols. The Aviation wing includes 7 MI-8 HIP transports and 1 Dornier Do 228 Transport aircraft The military of Bhutan is small with only 8,000 personnel. This number includes the Royal Bodyguard and the Royal Bhutan Police. Bhutan receives military training and assistance from India in a strategic partnership.
Armament is limited to small arms rifles and pistols such as the AK-101 and AK-104 and 81mm mortar and the M-46 mountain cannon. The Aviation wing includes 7 MI-8 HIP transports and 1 Dornier Do 228 Transport aircraft. Bhutan has no armament manufacturing capacity of its own, and relies on foreign purchases. The military’s mission is to defend border and the sovereignty of the nation.
In partnership with India, Bhutan has engaged Indian separatist groups that had set up camps in the south. Operation: All Clear was the most recent major operation for Bhutan’s armed forces 6000 personnel engaged an estimated 3000 militants spread across 30 camps. Within 2 weeks all 30 camps were captured. 485 militants were killed while only 11 Royal Bhutan army members were KIA.