Israel Establishes Diplomatic Relations With Bhutan

Decision to officially open ties between Israel and Buddhist-majority Himalayan kingdom also 'the fruit of peace agreements,' Netanyahu says

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Israeli and Bhutanese officials sign an agreement establishing diplomatic relations, at the residence of Israel's Ambassador to India, New Delhi, December 12, 2020.
Israeli and Bhutanese officials sign an agreement establishing diplomatic relations, at the residence of Israel's Ambassador to India, New Delhi, December 12, 2020.Credit: Israel Embassy in New Delhi
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Israel announced Saturday that it established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Bhutan, which borders India and China, in a ceremony held at the residence of Israel's ambassador to India, Ron Malka. 

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hailed the event as a "major milestone in deepening Israel's ties with Asia."

"The circle of recognition of Israel is growing and expanding," he said, adding he hoped to welcome the King of Bhutan to Israel sometime in the next year.

The Foreign Ministry said Ashkenazi and Bhutanese counterpart Tandi Dorji had already held talks and agreed to cooperation in the fields of water management, agriculture, healthcare and more.

Israel has previously had contacts with Bhutan through Mashav, its international development agency, and hosted students working on agricultural projects. 

The small state of Bhutan, which is twice the size of Israel but has a tenth of its population, has generally pursued an isolationist foreign policy. It only has official relations with 53 countries in the world (as well as the European Union). The himalayan kingdom, which is known for assessing its development via a Gross Happiness Index, is famously difficult to enter for tourists. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu also welcomed the establishment of relations between Israel and Bhutan, saying it was "another fruit of the peace agreements," presumably talking about several U.S.-brokered agreements to normalize relations with several Middle-Eastern and African countries. 

"We are in contact with other countries that want to join and establish relations with us," Netanyahu added.

In August, the Trump administration facilitated the normalization of relations between Israel and two Gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. After the deal, which was dubbed the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement, the United Arab Emirates received previously unavailable access to advanced U.S. weaponry. 

In October, Israel and Sudan also normalized ties, in a deal that saw the White House commit to take steps to remove Sudan from its list of countries that support terrorism.

Earlier this week, Israel and Morocco agreed to normalize ties, in a deal underwritten by the United States, which controversially agreed to recognize Morocco's claim over Western Sahara.

There was yet to be any announcement from Washington regarding the establishment of relations between Israel and Bhutan.

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