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Bhutan is a landlocked country in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas. It is bordered to the north by China and to the south, east and west by India. Further west, it is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim, while further south it is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Bhutan's capital and largest city is Thimphu.
Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms until the early 17th century, when the lama and military leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, fleeing religious persecution in Tibet, unified the area and cultivated a distinct Bhutanese identity. Later, in the early 20th century, Bhutan came into contact with the British Empire and retained strong bilateral relations with India upon its independence. In 2006, based on a global survey, Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world.
Bhutan's landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, where some peaks exceed 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Its total area was reported as approximately 46,500 km2 (18,000 sq mi) in 1997 and 38,394 square kilometres (14,824 sq mi) in 2002. Bhutan's state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism and the population, now (as of 2012/2013) estimated to be nearly three-quarters of a million, is predominantly Buddhist. Hinduism is the second-largest religion.
In 2008, Bhutan made the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy and held its first general election. As well as being a member of the United Nations, Bhutan is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and hosted SAARC's sixteenth summit in April 2010.