Easily lost amidst Jerusalem’s high-profile normalization agreements with Arab states is its recent establishment of diplomatic ties with Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist nation wedged between India and China. The news has not been ignored in India, however, where it was greeted with much enthusiasm. And while Bhutan may not be a country with great strategic, economic, or even symbolic importance, Avi Kumar argues that the development is nonetheless significant:
Israel’s previous lack of ties with Bhutan was not linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but was rather due to Bhutan’s strict isolationist policies. The kingdom has a population of little more than 770,000 citizens and only began allowing tourists in 1970. TV and Internet were permitted only in 1999. [It] has full diplomatic ties with only 53 nations. The new agreement with Israel comes after several years of secret communication between the two countries.
In 2017, the country saw its highest number of tourists, at more than 250,000—up from 2,850 in 1992. . . . Also, [the agreement] opens up new avenues for bilateral cooperation in other sectors such as agriculture, water management, and defense, which will benefit both parties significantly and boost both economies.
Israel’s new ties with this relatively isolated kingdom reflect the fact that the new Middle East landscape President-elect Joe Biden will inherit from President Trump is one where Israel’s role in the world at large is bigger and more significant than it has ever been in its 72-year history.