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Suzerainty (pronounced /ˈsjuːzərənti/RP or /ˈsjuːzəreɪnti/RP) (/ˈsuːzərənti/ GA) is a situation in which a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which allows the tributary some limited domestic . The more powerful entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the head of state of that more powerful entity, is called a suzerain. The term suzerainty was originally used to describe the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and its surrounding regions. It differs from sovereignty in that the tributary has some (limited) self-rule. A suzerain can also mean a feudal lord, to whom vassals must pay tribute.

The word is often spelled "suzerainity", though this has come to be considered incorrect.



Following India's independence in 1947, a treaty signed between the Chogyal and the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave India suzerainty over Sikkim in exchange for it retaining its independence. This continued until 1975, when the Sikkimese monarchy was abrogated in favour of a merger into India. Sikkim is now one of the states of India.


India no longer looks after the external, defence, communications, and foreign affairs of Bhutan. However India provides substantial support to the Royal Bhutan Army and guarantees its support against external aggression. This is one of several situations in international politics where two sovereign states agree to have the more powerful administer the defense of the weaker.[source?]


Located in the Arabian Sea, Lakshadweep is a Union territory of India off the coast of the south western state of Kerala. The Amindivi group of islands (Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat and Bitra) came under the rule of Tipu Sultan in 1787.

South African Republic

After the First Boer War (1880–81), the South African Republic was granted its independence, under British suzerainty. During the Second Boer War (1899–1902), the South African Republic was annexed as the Colony of the Transvaal, which existed until 1910, when it became the Province of Transvaal in the Union of South Africa.

Second World War

Despite being occupied by the Axis powers, several Western and Asian countries were allowed to exercise self-rule. Several states were created in order to facilitate their occupation, including Vichy France, Manchukuo, the Empire of Vietnam, the Independent State of Croatia in Croatia and the Lokot Autonomy in Central Russia.

Other countries

In modern geopolitics, it is common for larger countries to look after the defense and foreign relations of nearby smaller countries. Usually, this differs from traditional suzerainty in that the lesser party still has the right to abrogate the arrangement following a referendum. Some examples include:

Historically suzerain

(to the Ottoman Empire):