The Development Ministry, which was established in 1968, was a precursor to the institution of the Department of Foreign Affairs which was established in 1970. Subsequently, given the increasing need to undertake a focused approach to foreign policy, the latter was up-gradated to a full-fledged Ministry in 1972.
Late Lyonpo Dawa Tshering was the first Foreign Minister when the Ministry was then housed in Tashichhodzong. In 1996, the Ministry shifted to the present location, i.e. National Assembly Secretariat (NAS) building, which was initially built to host the SAARC Summits. The building also houses the Parliament, the National Assembly of Bhutan (Gyalyong Tshokhang) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The Ministry which started with a handful of staff grew to the staff strength of 131, including the staff under the Royal Bhutanese Embassies, Missions and Consulates in the 9th Five Year Plan (2002 – 2007) with increasing bilateral, multilateral, and regional engagements. The Ministry then had two Departments, i.e. the Department of Bilateral Affairs and the Department of Multilateral Affairs. Protocol services were provided at the Division level. The Department of Bilateral Affairs had two Divisions, i.e. Asia and SAARC Division, and America and Europe Division. The Multilateral Division and International Convention & Treaties Division were under the Multilateral Department.
During the 10th Five Year Plan (2008 – 2013), the Department of SAARC & Regional Organizations was established with three Divisions, i.e. SAARC Division, BIMSTEC Division, and ACD and others Division. With increasing mandate and workload, two more Departments were added during the 11th Five Year Plan (2013 – 2018). The erstwhile Protocol Division was upgraded to a Department with three Divisions i.e. Programme & Hospitality Division, Mission & Consular Services Division and Passport Division. The Directorate of Services (DoS) was created to provide all support services relating to Administration and Finance, Human Resource, Procurement, ICT and Legal services. Department of Bilateral Affairs and Multilateral Affairs was also restructured and a new Division each was added. The Public Diplomacy Division was established in the 12th Five Year Plan (2018 – 2023) with the objective to disseminate information and promote a greater understanding of Bhutan abroad.
“Advancing Gross National Happiness for a peaceful, prosperous and sovereign Bhutan”
“A professional Foreign Service that is responsive to Bhutan’s interests and aspirations”
- To safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and unity of Bhutan and promote its unique identity, cultural heritage and the pursuit of Gross National Happiness
- To promote Bhutan’s peaceful co-existence and develop friendly relations with all countries and engage in regional and multilateral cooperative efforts
- To be a responsible and constructive member of the international community and contribute towards the global effort in safeguarding international peace, security, understanding and cooperation
- To contribute towards sustainable socio-economic development of the country and promotion of trade relations/FDI and economic partnerships
- To adopt a principled approach on all issues by upholding international law and promoting peaceful settlement of disputes.
- To provide consular services and protect the rights and interests of Bhutanese abroad
The Ministry currently has the following five departments besides the Office of the Foreign Minister and Office of the Foreign Secretary:
- Department of Bilateral Affairs
- Department of Multilateral Affairs
- Department of Protocol
- Department of Regional Cooperation
- Directorate of Services
Bhutan currently has diplomatic relations with 53 countries, including the European Union. It has resident diplomatic missions in New Delhi, Dhaka, Kuwait, Bangkok, Brussels, and Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. Bhutan has consulates at Kolkata, Guwahati, and New York. There are Thirteen Honorary Consuls of Bhutan abroad. India, Bangladesh and Kuwait have resident missions in Thimphu. Fourteen countries have Honorary Consuls in Bhutan. Thimphu also hosts several country offices of international organizations including the UN and other bodies.
Following are the list of Ministers and Secretaries who served the Ministry till date since its establishment:
List of Foreign Ministers
- Lyonpo Dawa Tshering – 1972 – 1998
- Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley – 1998 – 2003
- Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk – 2003 – 2007
- Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering – April 2008 – April 2013
- Lyonpo Rinzin Dorji – July 2013 – August 2015
- Lyonpo Damcho Dorji – August 2015 – August 2018
- Lyonpo Tandi Dorji – November 2018 – till date
List of Foreign Secretaries
- Dasho Sangay Penjor – 1973 – 1984 (date to be confirmed)
- Lyonpo (Dr) Tashi Tobgyel – 1984 – 1986 (date to be confirmed)
- Dasho T.J. Rixin – 1987 – 1998 (date to be confirmed)
- Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering – September 1998 – June 2003
- Dasho Neten Zangmo – August 2003 – January 2006
- Ambassador Yeshey Dorji – July 2007 – November 2008
- Ambassador Dawa Penjor – March 2009 – February 2012
- Ambassador Tshering Dorji – February 2012 – February 2017
- Ambassador Yeshey Dorji – June 2012 – May 2015
- Ambassador Sonam Tshong – February 2017 – December 2018
- Ambassador Kinga Singye – August 2019 – till date