Bowled Over by Bhutan - 2007

government. Even today, India supplies 3/5s of Bhutan’s operating budget and military

protection of the borders. Since l971 (when Bhutan won admission to the United

Nations) it has been fully independent in foreign affairs as well as internal governance

but it is very much in the interest of the Bhutan government to remain on friendly terms

with India because of the monetary dependence and because India is its major trading


The 4th King of Bhutan astounded his fellow citizens, and the world, when he abdicated at

age 42 in favor of his young son, the as yet uncrowned 5th king. He informed his people

that he wanted the government to progress to democracy with a constitution. He

believed that a younger man could be more forward looking and could more easily carry

out this design. His young son has been ruling the country since that time (about two

years ago). It is planned (with Buddhist blessings) that the transition to a constitutional

monarchy will occur in 2008 along with the king’s coronation and the election of a

truly representative assembly with legislative powers. The people consider the year

and the celebrations auspicious, both religiously and historically, since 2008 will be the

100th anniversary of the monarchy. Kelzang, our guide, expressed great confidence in the

wisdom of the young king and his optimistic father because they have already

demonstrated their excellent governance and their concern for the Bhutanese people. He is

pleased that the newly crowned king will initially have greater power than in a traditional

constitutional monarchy because he believes that it is right that the complete transition

should take place gradually.

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