I’ve just finished reading Sikkim: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom, by Andrew Duff, which I mentioned some time ago here after I’d been to see the author present at the Edinburgh Book Festival. The story of Crown Prince Thondup Namgyal and his marriage to the young American Hope Cooke takes central place in this fascinating book, which also explains a bit about international politics in the region and how they affected Sikkim from about 1950 onwards. In 1947, when India became independent, Sikkim was not incorporated into the union. It was given protectorate status in 1950, and eventually in 1975 it became the 22nd state.
If you look at Sikkim on a world map you can see that it borders with Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and India. In the mid 1960s the Chinese were seen as a possible major threat in Sikkim, and trenches were dug in various places as fortifications against a possible invasion. When Nixon went to China in 1972 he changed the international balance of power, and India veered not only to the left, politically, but also towards Russia, diplomatically. The tiny Sikkim was briefly in the thick of things during these periods. It makes for gripping reading.
The demographics of Sikkim changed radically during the Twentieth Century. The native Bhutias and Lepchas were gradually outnumbered by incoming Nepalis, and later on there was an influx of Bengalis and others from the south. This made politics quite interesting during this period.
I’ve now gone on to read In Search of Shambhala, buy Elaine Brook. She travelled west through Nepal, but started in Sikkim. Her book was published in 1996, and at one point she says that it was a year before she read the diaries of the trip. So it is at least 22 years since her trek. I imagine that Nepal has changed irrevocably since those days.
In 2014 Lonely Planet declared Sikkim to be the most desirable place to travel in the world.