Bhutan and Israel established formal diplomatic relations on Saturday, and the tiny Himalayan nation now has diplomatic ties with 54 countries and the European Union.
Notes verbales on the establishment of diplomatic relations were exchanged by Bhutan’s ambassador Vetsop Namgyel and his Israeli counterpart Ron Malka during a ceremony held at the Embassy of Israel in New Delhi.
“The establishment of diplomatic relations would not only build upon the existing close ties but open the path to greater cooperation and further strengthen relations between the two countries and peoples,” said a joint statement issued by the two countries.
The development came a little more than a fortnight after Bhutan established full-fledged diplomatic relations with Germany on 25 November. It also came against the backdrop of fresh Chinese claims on parts of Bhutan’s territory near the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
During Saturday’s ceremony, the envoys of the two countries “recognised the growing engagements between Bhutan and Israel and welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations”, according to the statement.
Namgyel and Malka reiterated the shared desire of the two countries to further strengthen bilateral cooperation for the benefit of their people.
“In addition to deepening cooperation in areas including economic, technological and agriculture development, the two ambassadors highlighted that the ties between the peoples through cultural exchanges and tourism would also be further enhanced,” the statement said.
Following the ceremony, Bhutan foreign minister Tandi Dorji and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi sent mutual congratulations.
Israel and Bhutan have “enjoyed cordial relations marked by friendship and cooperation, even in the absence of diplomatic relations”, the statement said. Israel supported Bhutan’s human resource development since 1982, especially in agriculture development that has benefitted hundreds of Bhutanese youth.
The establishment of diplomatic relations will create new avenues for cooperation between the two countries in water management, technology, human resource development, agricultural sciences and other areas.
The statement didn’t say whether the two countries will open embassies in each other’s capital.
Bhutan’s capital Thimphu hosts only three foreign missions — those of India, Bangladesh and Kuwait.
As part of domestic reforms introduced by late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who ruled from 1952 to 1972, Bhutan gradually established relations with a small number of countries and joined the UN in 1971.
There was no formal reaction from the Indian side to Saturday’s development. However, India welcomed the establishment of full-fledged diplomatic ties between Germany and Bhutan last month.