The Kingdom of Bhutan, also known as The Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon. Sometimes referred to as the hermit kingdom, due to its previous isolation policies only allowing tourism since 1974, is stuck between two great powers, India and China, along the Himalayas. Bhutan’s unique culture and strong traditional roots is draws people to the country. With strong Tantric Buddhist traditions ingrained in most everyday tasks, Bhutan prides itself with having low impact on the environment they live in. However, the region around Bhutan has many potential challenges and as the country develops I believe Bhutan will need to need to focus more on its international relations especially in regard to how Bhutan deals with globalization.
One thing that is unique to Bhutan from the rest of the world is it’s GNH, Gross National Happiness, “The GNH Index provides an overview of performance across 9 domains, which include psychological well-being, time use, community vitality, cultural diversity, ecological resilience, living standard, health, education, good governance” (IMF). Bhutan is a country that measures it’s wealth from how happy the citizens are as opposed to GDP. This is a challenge that Bhutan has to face that is also unique. 97 percent of the population say that they are happy with their country. With the opening of the borders and showing Bhutan to the world, Bhutan now has to balance modern technologies, which were previously kept out of the country, and the modern luxuries people want with its strong Buddhist way of life and traditions. Bhutan is aware of this danger but courageously takes on this task.
Bhutan has come far in its development but there are still other factors that have not been addressed. This first one being Bhutan on the international scale. Bhutan is a small country between two large emerging powers. With close relations to India, this has helped supply Bhutan with its imports and exports, with Bhutan receiving most of its imports from India. As China grows and takes more of a center role on the international stage, it will be interesting to watch how this relationship will develop. I feel that Bhutan’s isolation in the 20th century has helped it greatly especially with dealing with the communist revolution that happened in China. Also, Bhutan’s isolation gave it that opportunity to watch how the world is developing and learn from the mistakes others made. However, now that Bhutan is open to the world it no longer has this luxury.
Bhutan is so unique and it has to face its challenges differently from everyone else. Bhutan is trying to preserve its culture but as it opens up to the world and the effects of globalization is a challenge that Bhutan knows it will have to face in the future. As the people of Bhutan have access to some of these goods it is known that they will want more, thus the reason Bhutan has been hesitant on accepting newer technologies. A prime example of this is when Bhutan accepted television. The impact it had on the culture from commercials and on the economy, which are hard to reverse, affected the younger population. Those between the ages of 15-24 wanted the luxuries of those they see on TV.
Bhutan’s assimilation into the world economy may be a big challenge. As economies interact more affecting the challenges Bhutan will have to face with its culture and modernization. With constant awareness of the impact of the environment around them and protection of their culture, Bhutan might be hesitant on opening all of its markets to those immediately in its region. This might also become a bigger issue with the world bank involvement if they require Bhutan to join the World Trade Organization, potentially causing bitter ties with countries who want access to their markets. Economics have also been a major factor for war and troubling relationships, a troubling combination with economic driven China to the North and growing economies in Southeast Asia.
With all of these different ties Bhutan needs to look outward of the region. With Bhutan historically working with the British I feel this is a good relationship especially with the new Brexit vote. However, the relationships can become region focused. With the newly established AIIB, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, this could better relations with China. I feel that this relationship would not only help Bhutan secure its peace and staying independent from conflicts, but this will benefit both countries, as China needs to help its development sector and Bhutan needs its infrastructure to be developed more than anything else. We will have to wait and see how Bhutan deals with globalization.