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Nepal’s Foreign Policy

A landlocked country, Nepal is sandwiched between two giant neighbors–China and India. To the north, the Himalayas constituted a natural and primarily impassible frontier, and the border with China was beyond that. India landlocks Nepal on three sides and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to the north. West Bengal’s narrow Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken’s Neck, separates Nepal and Bangladesh. To the east are India and Bhutan. Nepal depends on India for goods transport facilities and access to the sea, even for most goods imported from China.

Nepal sought geostrategic isolation during the British Raj (1858-1947). This traditional isolationism was partially the product of the country’s relative freedom from external intervention and domination. From the mid-nineteenth century, when Britain emerged as the unchallenged power in India and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in China was in decline, Nepal made accommodations with Britain on the best possible terms. Without surrendering autonomy on internal matters, Nepal received guarantees of protection from Britain against external aggression and interference. London also considered a steady flow of Gurkha recruits from Nepal vital to support Britain’s security in India and its other colonial territories.

In the 1950s, Nepal began gradually opening up and a commitment to a policy of neutrality and nonalignment. At the 1973 summit of the Nonaligned Movement in Algiers, the Late King Birendra proposed that “Nepal, between two of the most populous countries of the world, wishes her frontiers to be declared a zone of peace.” In 1975, during the Late King Birendra’s coronation address, he formally asked other countries to endorse his proposal. Since then, the concept of Nepal as a zone of peace has become a central theme of Kathmandu’s foreign policy.

As of mid-1991, Nepal had been endorsed as a zone of peace by more than 110 nations. Many of these countries also recommended a regional approach to ease as the goal. Without the endorsement of India and the former Soviet Union, however, the prospect of broader international acceptance was dim.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Nepal had established diplomatic relations with approximately 100 countries. Nepal was an active member of the United Nations (UN) and participated in several specialized agencies. Nepal also was a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and had successfully negotiated several bilateral and multilateral economic, cultural, and technical assistance programs. Because of its geographical proximity to and historical links with China and India, Nepal’s foreign policy was focused mainly on maintaining close and friendly relations with these two countries and on safeguarding its national security and independence. Nepal’s relations with the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union showed new signs of vitality in 1991.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has traditionally maintained a non-aligned policy and enjoys friendly relations with neighboring countries. Nepal maintains good relations with the People’s Republic of China and India as a small, landlocked country wedged between two more significant and far more substantial powers.

Constitutionally, foreign policy is to be guided by “the principles of the United Nations Charter, nonalignment, Panchsheel [five principles of peaceful coexistence], international law and the value of world peace.” In practice, foreign policy has not been directed toward projecting influence internationally but toward preserving autonomy and addressing domestic economic and security issues.

Nepal’s most substantive international relations are perhaps with global economic institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, a multilateral economic development association. Nepal also has strong bilateral relations with significant financial and military aid providers, such as France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland, the United States, and notably the United Kingdom, with whom military ties date to the nineteenth century. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs primarily manages the country’s external relations.


The foreign policy’s fundamental objective is to enhance Nepal’s dignity in the international arena by maintaining the country’s sovereignty, integrity, and independence. Furthermore, its objectives are enumerated as follows:

  • To conduct Nepal’s foreign relations in consonance with the policies and guidelines of the Government of Nepal,
  • To project and protect Nepal’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national interest abroad,
  • To promote bilateral, regional, and multilateral relations for the socio-economic development of the country,
  • To promote friendly relations with all the countries of the world and particularly with its immediate neighbors, based on sovereign equality, mutual respect, trust, goodwill, and understanding,
  • To play an active role in the United Nations and other international organizations to promote international peace and security, and development,
  • To play a positive and meaningful role in the Nonaligned Movement in the context of a changed world.
  • To play an active role in the promotion of regional cooperation in South Asia under the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation,
  • To act as the country’s first point of contact with the outside world and serve as Nepal’s window to the world.
  • To play an increasingly active role in Nepal’s economic diplomacy, promoting our trade, investment, economic cooperation, and tourism, and helping tap and develop our immense water resources potential.

Guiding Principles

The abiding faith in the United Nations and the nonalignment policy guide Nepal’s foreign policy. The basic principles guiding the foreign policy of the country include:

  1. Mutual respect’s territorial integrity and sovereignty;
  2. Non-interference in each other’s internal affairs
  3. Respect for mutual equality
  4. Non-aggression and the peaceful settlement of disputes
  5. Cooperation for mutual benefit

The foreign policy of Nepal is also guided by international law and other universally recognized norms governing international relations. The value of world peace also constitutes a significant element guiding the country’s foreign policy.

Constitutional Provisions on Foreign Policy

Part 4 (Directive Principles, Policies, and Obligations of the State) of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015, outlines the cardinal principles, parameters, and general directions of Nepal’s foreign policy. These are:

Directive Principles

  1. The State shall direct its international relations towards enhancing the nation’s dignity in the world community by maintaining international relations based on sovereign equality while safeguarding Nepal’s freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, and national interest. {Clause 50.4}

State Policy:

The State shall pursue the following policies relating to international relations:

  1. Conduct an independent foreign policy based on the Charter of the United Nations, non-alignment, principles of Panchsheel, international law, and the norms of world peace, taking into consideration of the overall interest of the nation while remaining active in safeguarding the sovereignty, and territorial integrity, independence and national interest of Nepal,
  2. Review treaties concluded in the past and made treaties and agreements based on equality and mutual interest. {Clause 51 (m 1 and 2)}