The arguments between Bhutan and British India
escalated through the early 1800s as the two fought over boundaries and the
British made regular attempts to take legal control over the country, but
Bhutan always resisted. This peaked in 1862 when Britain was distracted by Indian
uprisings so Bhutan invaded Sikkim and Cooch Behar (in modern day India). This was
followed by civil war in Bhutan, which resulted in the country's split and Britain
again making a push into the country, an act that was rejected by both governments,
leading to war in 1864, which resulted in more lost land to the British.
Although struggles and arguments with the British
continued through the 1800s, in 1904 the Bhutanese assisted
the British convey sent to Lhasa, Tibet (for some time now, an ally to Bhutan) in
order to gain favor. This mission was successful in British terms and hence relations
between the Bhutanese and Brits had all but ended. This also led to the rise in
power of Ugyen Wangchuck, who led the British assistance and hence grew in popularity
in Bhutan. Due to this, the fifty-fourth Druk Desi (the reincarnation of Ngawang
Namgyal) resigned and a monarchy had begun. In 1907 Ugyen Wangchuck became the first
"dragon king" with British support.
However, British interests in Tibet scared
China so the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1910 and claimed Bhutan
as well. This led to the British assisting Bhutan in foreign affairs, but allowing
the country full rights over domestic issues. But this didn't mean British attributes
were voluntarily introduced as the country brought in British-styled education,
communication, infrastructure, technology, and more.
These positive relations between the British and
Bhutanese continued until 1947 when India gained independence
from Britain. In some ways, India then gained control as Bhutan's
protector, however India didn't truly get involved in Bhutan's politics
and by 1949 this relationship continued as Bhutan transferred control over its foreign
affairs to India, but at the same time gaining full independence as recognized by
both India and the United Kingdom.
In 1951, China again took over Tibet, this time permanently,
leading Bhutan to shut its northern border and forge stronger
relations with India. Since 1907 the country had been quickly
modernizing, but this invasion led to more rapid changes in order to prevent an
internal uprising seeking Chinese communist control.
The 1960s though began a time of instability and chaos in the country as numerous
people sought power in the country as others fought the numerous changes introduced
by the government, most notably in the form of a more centralized government. The
kings held power through this tenuous time, at times coming at the expense of the
king's personal power. It also led to the opening of Bhutan,
as in 1966 they gained control over their foreign relations and in 1971 joined the
Since the 1970s modernization has continued, although some internal disputes and
power struggles have also remained. The technological additions have been slow though
and television wasn't brought to the country until 1999 as earlier efforts had
been focused on education and infrastructure.
In more recent times the country has moved up and down as far as progress is concerned,
most notably on the political scale. Due to Chinese pressure
the country forced many Tibetans to flee the country and due to arguments with Nepal some ethnic Nepalese claim unfair treatment while others
fled the country. In 2003 the country has been faced with Assam independence seekers,
who have made their home in Bhutan to flee the
In 2005 the government created a constitution, making the country truly a democracy.
Also in recent years the country's hostilities with neighboring peoples has
settled and the country seems to be more stable. However, there is a strong desire
to maintain the traditional way of life in Bhutan so foreign
relations and tourism is strongly restricted.