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Nepal - Foreign Relations

As a small, landlocked country wedged between two much larger and far stronger powers, Nepal seeks good relations with both India and China. During the British Raj (1858-1947), Nepal sought geostrategic isolation. This traditional isolationism partially was the product of the relative freedom the country enjoyed 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 as vital to support Britains security in India and its other colonial territories.

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

Nepal formally established relations with China in 1956 and, since then, their bilateral relations have generally been good. Because of strong cultural, religious, linguistic, and economic ties, Nepal's association with India traditionally has been close. India and Nepal restored trade relations in 1990 after a break caused by India's security concerns over Nepal's relations with China. A bilateral trade treaty signed with India in 1991 is subject to renewal every 5 years. A transit treaty with India, which allows Nepal to trade with other countries through the Calcutta/Haldia ports, was extended on March 30, 2006 for 7 years.

From 1951 to 1996, Nepal, generally tried to maintain a balanced relationship with both India and China. However, geography and traditional cultural, political, and economic ties made Nepals relationship with India closer than her relations with China. To counterbalance these ties to India, Nepalese monarchs sometimes played the so called China card. A Maoist insurgency began in Nepal in 1996. When this insurgency began, it appeared to be anti-Indian, but in 2001 it was revealed that the Maoist were operating from bases in India. The dynamics of Nepals relationship with these two countries moved into a different environment after the Maoist insurgency began in Nepal in 1996.

Some argued that the Maoist were brought into power by India, but began moving towards China, and that India neede to reevaluate its relationship with Nepal, with whom its security is closely linked. using the diplomatic-political, informational, military and economic (DIME) instruments of national power. Others argued that there has been a major shift in Chinas foreign policy towards Nepal since the Maoist ascended to power. China had earlier adopted a policy of non-intervention in the internal matters of Nepal and largely stayed out of Nepalese internal politics. However, the demise of the monarchy and the ascendance of political parties led China to reshape its Nepal policy. Within Nepal some argue for building closer ties with China because Nepal could gain enormously from Chinas rapid rise and spiraling economic growth.

Foreign aid to Nepal used to be confined to infrastructure projects, and Nepal's rulers played off regional rivals India and China or superpowers the US and USSR to extract assistance for highways, dams and even cigarette factories. Later, aid was channelled more towards poverty alleviation and projects designed to lift living standards.

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

  • To conduct Nepals foreign relations in consonance with the policies and guidelines of Government of Nepal,
  • To project and protect Nepals 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, on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual respect, trust, goodwill and understanding,
  • To play an active role in the United Nations and other international organizations in order 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 countrys a first point of contact for the outside world and also serve as Nepals window to the world.
  • To play an increasingly active role in the conduct of Nepals economic diplomacy, thereby promoting our trade, investment, economic cooperation, tourism, and help tap and develop Nepals immense water resources potential.

Nepal played an active role in the formation of the economic development-oriented South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and is the site of its secretariat. Nepal is also a signatory of the agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), which came into force on January 1, 2006. A SAFTA tariff liberalization program (TLP) is being implemented. On international issues, Nepal follows a non-aligned policy and often votes with the Non-Aligned Movement in the United Nations. Nepal participates in a number of UN specialized agencies and is a member of the World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Colombo Plan, and Asian Development Bank.

In the 2005 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, a technical assistance resolution called on the government to restore multiparty democracy and respect human rights and the rule of law. The resolution requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office to assist Nepalese authorities in developing policies and programs for the promotion, protection, and monitoring of human rights. As a result, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was established in Kathmandu in May 2005.





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