We are members of:
Copyright © 2015, Bhutan Personal Tours and Travels. All rights reserved.
CONFLICT AND RECONCILIATION
INVASIONS FROM TIBET
For the first time in several centuries, Bhutan had to contend with aggression from outside when in 1639, the king of Tsang in Tibet invaded from the north. TheTibetant-Mongoltroops launched another invasion in 1647. Nawang Namgyal personally led the successful resistance and several Tibetan officers and a large number of horses were captured. He also repelled Tibetan invasions in 1648 and 1649. Drugyal Dzong (victorious fortress) was built at the head of Paro valley in 1646 to commemorate the victory and to check further Tibetan infiltration. These battles which untilled the Bhutanese against a common enemy, and his success in repelling the Tibetan attacks further cemented Nawang Namgyal’s position as an undisputed ruler. The large militia, which he raised for the purpose, also gave him effective control of the country. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal thus came to be known as the founder of DrukYul and governed the country for 35 years.
PERIOD OF CIVIL WARS
After the sacred retreat of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1651, Bhutan was ruled by Desis until 1907 during which, the country was once again torn with civil strife. Of the 54 Desis (excluding Additional Desis), who ruled the country since 1651, some important once were the third Desi Chhogyal Minjur Tempa, the fourth Desi Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, who ruled from 1680 to 1694 and 13th Desi Sherab Wangchuck. Only a few of the rulers completed their terms: 22 Desis were assassinated or deposed by their rivals. Furthe rmore Penlops (governor of a region consisting of several districts), vying for central power, plotted and fought against each other. Death and destruction marred the daily lives of people for the two centuries.
CLASH OF ARMS WITH THE BRITISH IN INDIA
Prior to 1772, the British had no political relations with Bhutan. When the East India Company established its sovereignty in Bengal, The state of Cooch Behar, situated between Bengal and Assam had not become a dependency of the British Government. In 1772, Bhutan invaded Cooch Behar, overran the country and occupied the capital. In response, Khagendra Narayan, a pretender to the throne, made overtures to the British government on 5 April, 1773. He signed an agreement with the East India Company making Cooch Behar a virtual dependency of the British. He surrendered half the revenue of the state and promised payment of Rs. 50,000 for defraying the expenses of British troops sent to assist in his restatement in Cooch Behar.
Under this agreement, a British force was dispatched and succeeded in not only uprooting the Bhutanese from Cooch Behar but also captured the two Bhutanese forts of Pasakha and Dalimkot in the foothills.
Alarmed by these developments 17th Desi Tshenlop Kunga Rinchen at once called upon the Panchen Lama of Tibet to intercede on his behalf with the Governor- General of India, warrenHastings. This intercession was successful and an Anglo-Bhutanese Treaty was concluded between the East India Company and Bhutan on 25 April, 1774 which provided that both the countries would return to the boundaries which existed before the Bhutanese invasion of Cooch Behar.This was following by a number of British political missions to Bhutan.However,after the visit of Captain Turner to Bhutan in 1783,there appeared to have been very little contact between the governments of Bhutan and British India for almost 50 years.
THE DUAR ISSUE
The plains between the river Brahmaputra in India and the lowest hills of Bhutan were known as Duars (Indian word meaning doorway or gate).In the late 17th century, the third Desi, Minjur Tempa had annexed the western part of the Duars known as the Bengal Duars and the Bhutanese appropriated it as their territory. The eastern part, the Assam Duars had long been administered by a rental agreement between Bhutan and Assam.
By 1826 the Bhutanese effectively gained control over all eighteen Duars, eleven in Bengal and seven in Assam, a Situation which became increasingly unwelcome to the British after their occupation of Assam in 1828.British annexation of the Assam Duars in 1841 was followed by 20 years of intermittent clashes at the border. The Ashley Eden Mission of 1864 failed to resolve the issue and the second Anglo-Bhutanese war ensued. In November 1864, the British forces swept through Bhutanese strongholds in the Bengal Duars and by March 1865, they were firmly in control of these lowlands.
The second Anglo-Bhutanese war led by Jigme Namgyal the Trongsa Penlop, finally came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Sunchula on 11 November 1865, which carved out permanent conditions of peace and friendship between the two governments. Bhutan agreed to give up all claim to the 18 Duars. Trade between the two countries was to be open and free and mutual extradition of criminals was agreed upon. The British government, on its part, agreed to pay to the Government of Bhutan an annual sum of Rs. 50000 in compensation for the territories ceded. Bhutan lost approximately 2,750 sq.miles comprising the whole tract known as the Assam and Bengal Duars.