Development of Centralized Government, 1926-52

Bhutan Table of Contents

Ugyen Wangchuck died in 1926 and was succeeded by his son, Jigme Wangchuck (reigned 1926-52). The second Druk Gyalpo continued his father's centralization and modernization efforts and built more schools, dispensaries, and roads. During Jigme Wangchuck's reign, monasteries and district governments were increasingly brought under royal control. However, Bhutan generally remained isolated from international affairs.

The issue of Bhutan's status vis--vis the government of India (was Bhutan a state of India or did it enjoy internal sovereignty?) was reexamined by London in 1932 as part of the issue of the status of India itself. It was decided to leave the decision to join an Indian federation up to Bhutan when the time came. When British rule over India ended in 1947, so too did Britain's association with Bhutan. India succeeded Britain as the de facto protector of the Himalayan kingdom, and Bhutan retained control over its internal government. It was two years, however, before a formal agreement recognized Bhutan's independence.

Following the precedent set by the Treaty of Punakha, on August 8, 1949, Thimphu signed the Treaty of Friendship Between the Government of India and the Government of Bhutan, according to which external affairs, formerly guided by Britain, were to be guided by India. Like Britain, India agreed not to interfere in Bhutan's internal affairs. India also agreed to increase the annual subsidy to 500,000 rupees per year. Important to Bhutan's national pride was the return of Dewangiri. Some historians believe that if India had been at odds with China at this time, as it was to be a decade later, it might not have acceded so easily to Bhutan's request for independent status.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress