The Kingdom of Bhutan is located high in the Himalayas, surrounded by the two giants of economic development in Asia: China and India. This tiny nation has come to the attention of the international community in the last few years due to its bucolic way of life and its predominantly Buddhist ideology.
Bhutan does not have a particularly high Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the Kingdom is probably not very concerned about international business. The Kingdom likes to think along the lines that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”, a testament to the good nature of the Bhutanese people.
Costa Rica has been busy making friends in the Asian continent, and to that extent it has been looking towards China and India for diplomatic and trade partners. Chancellor Enrique Castillo has been expressing interest in expanding diplomatic and friendly relations with other sovereign countries in Asia, and it seems like he has found a nice match in the Kingdom of Bhutan.
In a ceremony held in New York at the Kingdom’s permanent mission before the United Nations, Ambassadors Eduardo Ulibarri Bilbao from Costa Rica and Lhatu Wangchuk of Bhutan signed the historic agreement this week.
Bhutan entered the world’s consciousness when the Kingdom was determined to be one of the world’s happiest countries entering the 21st century. An article written by Orville Schell in 2002 for Red Herring magazine detailed the Kingdom of Bhutan’s interest in cultivating happiness and Zen in their people:
“Happiness has usually been considered a utopian issue,” acknowledged Bhutan’s foreign minister, Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, at a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) meeting in Seoul, Korea, in 1998. But he emphasized that because an “individual’s quest for happiness and inner and outer freedom is the most precious endeavor, society’s ideal of governance and policy should promote this endeavor.”
Bhutan is also notable for having banned plastic bags from the Kingdom in 1999; an act that was ratified in 2005. The Kingdom has recognized that implementing and enforcing the ban has been difficult, but absolutely valuable.
As Costa Rica has also been recognized as one of the happiest places on Earth in recent years, the new diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Bhutan make perfect sense.
Sources: NTN24 and PBS Frontline.