How Politics shapes Governance, International Relations, and Public Policy



Source: AUN News
August 2022, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.26945.63849, License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Structure of Nepali Government

Who rules Nepal? And how does politics impact governance, international relations, geopolitics, and public policy in the Himalayan nation? The answer lies within Nepal’s governance system, which consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches and their checks and balances.

Nepal is a federal republic with a parliamentary system of government. The Constitution of Nepal establishes the framework for the governance system. The Prime Minister heads the executive branch and is the government head. The President is the head of the state of Nepal. The legislature is bicameral, consisting of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and legislature. It includes the Supreme Court (headed by the Chief Justice) and lower courts. The governance system in Nepal has four branches that play different roles in ensuring checks and balances among them. The Parliament is the legislative body that makes laws for the governance system in Nepal. Executive power vested under the President goes into carrying out all laws passed by Parliament. Judiciary, meanwhile, is responsible for settling disputes related to enforceable law or as instructed by Parliament or other recognized legal authority such as King’s edict. Nepali public policy also faces challenges such as protectionism and economic isolationism, which can prevent people from accessing markets on a global scale. To solve this issue, the country needs to keep up with WTO standards, use tools like anti-dumping duties and safeguard measures, establish more FTAs and promote FDI inflows.

Public policy plays a vital role in shaping sustainable development goals.

Political Parties

Nepal has two main political parties- the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Nepali Congress. There are also several smaller parties. The Communist Party of Nepal is the largest in the country and has been in power since 2017. The Nepali Congress is the second largest party and was in control from 2008 to 2017. These two parties have been sharing power back and forth since 1990. The significant factors steering politics in Nepal are ethnicity, religion, caste, and language. Geopolitics also plays a role, as Nepal is between India and China. Nepal’s relations with both countries are complex and often change depending on which party is in power. Politics also shape public policy in Nepal. For example, if one party is perceived as doing a better job providing services such as clean water or building roads than another, it will likely be voted into office again. As such, public policies enacted under different governments may vary. In domestic politics, the significant factor steering politics in Nepal is the rivalry between these two main political parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist). These parties have been competing for power since the end of the monarchy in 2008. The rivalry has often led to violence and political instability. It has also contributed to weak economic growth, high unemployment, and unsustainable development. For example, after protests over new elections legislation intensified in January 2015, the economy contracted by 1% due to disruptions in trade along key border points and export sectors.

The SDGs are one international goal that needs to be addressed when looking at public policy in Nepal. For sustainable development goals to be achieved, nations need economic growth and environmental protection. Economically, Nepal relies heavily on remittances from migrant workers abroad and tourism. Tourism can create jobs while preserving natural resources. Nepal is also an essential supplier of hydroelectricity to India through the massive Tarai plains irrigation project. With these factors in mind, public policy should focus on achieving these SDGs by improving literacy rates so citizens can read about these issues and voting rates. Hence, people participate in governance rather than relying on politicians for solutions.

Geopolitical Considerations and International Relations

With India to the south and China to the north, Nepal is a landlocked country. As a result, its foreign policy is shaped by its need to maintain good relations with both countries. Additionally, because of its location, Nepal is an important transit point for goods going from India to China. This gives it some leverage in its relations with both countries. Geopolitics impacts Nepal in many ways, so Nepal must maintain peaceful relations with neighboring countries. Nepal should work closely with China, India, and the United States. International relations are affected by geopolitics – national security threats like insurgency and terrorism pose significant risks to the international relation of Nepal.

Nepal’s Foreign Policy: Stuck Between India and China

A country’s foreign policy is directly influenced by its location, and Nepal is no exception to this rule. As you can see on the map, Nepal borders only two countries, India to the south and China to the north. For this reason, any foreign policy that Nepal develops must be strategic and well-executed to maintain positive relations with these neighboring countries. However, this task can be difficult because these two nations have historically had strained relationships, making it even more important for Nepal to keep them both happy.

Regional Overview

Nepal is a landlocked country located between India and China. As a result, its foreign policy is shaped by its need to maintain good relations with both countries. Nepal is an important transit point for India and China and has been the site of some terrorist activity in recent years. Nepal-China relations have been strained recently due to disputes over the Nepal-China border. Indo-China relations have also been tested in recent years, due in part to the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan. Due to the relative ease with which extremists can enter from India or Pakistan, terrorism in Nepal is primarily sponsored by non-state actors rather than state actors. The presence of these militant groups has led to tensions between India and Nepal, as well as Indo-Nepal relations being increasingly strained. Nepal’s security forces are active against terrorists but lack training and resources. In response to this threat, Nepal adopted a new constitution in 2015 that Indian experts primarily drafted to make it easier for Nepal to become a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). India seeks greater access to Nepal’s natural resources, including hydroelectric power and timber reserves. A hydropower agreement between Nepal and India in 2015 gave India preferential treatment on electricity exports from Nepal, which caused protests among Nepalese who believe their resources are not benefiting the Nepalese people.

Some history – from monarchy to democracy

Nepal was once a monarchy, but the King was overthrown in 2008, and the country became a democracy. Since then, Nepal has been trying to maintain good relations with India and China, despite their many disputes. Nepal and China had had several border disputes, most notably in 2015 when Nepal attempted to build a road through the disputed territory. Nepal and India have also had their share of disagreements, most recently over the construction of a hydropower plant in Nepal. The Indian company involved felt it did not get fair compensation for its investment, so it pulled out of the project altogether. Nepal could not afford to abandon this project because it needs new sources of energy as well as jobs for its growing population. The two countries are now negotiating a way forward.

What are some current issues

Nepal-China relations have been strained in recent years due to a border dispute. In 2015, Nepal signed a treaty with China that included provisions for settling the border dispute, but Nepal’s Parliament has not ratified the treaty. Due to a border dispute, Nepal-India relations have also been strained in recent years. In 2015, India and Nepal signed a treaty that included provisions for settling the border dispute, but Nepal’s Parliament has not ratified the treaty. Nepal has expressed interest in joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an infrastructure project led by China. Nepal fears it will be forced to choose between its two neighbors if it does join BRI or cannot settle its disputes with them peacefully. Nepal is trying to maintain good relations with both countries without appearing to favor one over the other. However, Nepal’s fear of being caught between India and China as they compete for regional dominance is valid. The United States has tried to keep these two countries from competing against each other through strategic investments that improve connectivity between Nepal and various parts of South Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Thailand. The United States would like to see Nepal become more self-sufficient so it can trade with whomever it wants rather than having to rely on India or China exclusively

Challenges ahead

The geopolitical situation in Nepal is complex. The country is bordered by two giants, India and China, with whom it has had its share of disputes. And while Nepal tries to maintain good relations with both countries, it is often caught in the middle of their disagreements. This can make things difficult for Nepal when it comes to formulating its foreign policy. Ahead lies the challenge of balancing India and China’s interests while protecting Nepal’s sovereignty. For example, Nepal was compelled to provide diplomatic support to Tibet during the 1950s revolt against Chinese rule due to pressure from India. In 2009, Nepal became involved in a border dispute with China over a small area known as the Sinchuang Valley. Even though this dispute was peacefully resolved thanks to efforts from Indian mediators, tensions remain high between Nepal and China over their disputed borders due to competing territorial claims dating back centuries.

Nepal SDGs

However, while challenges such as the ones mentioned above affect public policy in Nepal and international relations in Nepal, so far, Nepal’s SDG targets have been achieved through rapid economic growth coupled with strong social indicators such as infant mortality rates. Nepal achieved sustainable development goals such as quality education, gender equality, health equity, clean water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy, among others, due to its rapid economic growth coupled with strong social indicators such as infant mortality rates. Nepal has established a robust infrastructure to connect itself with other parts of the world, including roads, railways, airports, and communication networks. It also has tried to provide clean drinking water and adequate housing for all its citizens. Nepal still has tremendous challenges like geopolitics and lack of democratic reforms. Still, they have made progress on their SDGs by addressing access to healthcare and nutrition, reducing child marriage rates, and increasing investment in research (IMF).

Role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play an essential role in democracy by providing a space for citizens to voice their concerns and influence decision-making. In Nepal, CSOs have been instrumental in advocating for the rights of marginalized groups, women’s empowerment, and environmental protection. They have also played a role in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. CSOs are essential to Nepal’s governance system and help hold the government accountable. Nepal has set ambitious SDG targets, and CSOs must continue to play their role in ensuring that these targets are met. Nepal must also focus on building alliances with other countries to take advantage of its natural resources and opportunities for trade. Nepal should balance economic growth while protecting its environment and be mindful of global warming trends. Nepal needs to diversify its economy if they want to reach its SDGs; this includes:

  • continuing agricultural reform policies like subsidizing fertilizer and seeds,
  • establishing rural infrastructure projects like irrigation systems and roads,
  • promoting tourism, improving gender equality through the implementation of laws such as inheritance laws for widows or female property owners,
  • investing in social enterprises such as microfinance loans or rural enterprise development cooperatives;
  • working towards education reform like hiring more teachers from rural areas; initiating literacy programs through education reform;
  • strengthening democratic institutions like local governments or representative bodies such as national assemblies, among others.

Leadership Qualities Needed for Democratic Leadership

In a country like Nepal, democratic leadership is essential for good governance. The ability to listen to diverse points of view, make informed decisions, and work collaboratively are vital qualities needed for democratic leadership. Nepal is a small country with a diverse population, so leaders need to be inclusive and consider the needs of all Nepali citizens. Leaders also need to be able to navigate the complex geopolitical landscape of Nepal, which includes relations with India, China, and the United States. Nepal has set ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so leaders need to be committed to meeting these goals. Lastly, public servants must be honest and transparent to gain the Nepali people’s trust. They must work hard to do what’s best for Nepal. Prosperous countries balance competing interests and demands while still putting the needs of their citizens first. Nepal can continue to become more successful by ensuring good governance while working toward its SDG targets. Achieving these SDGs will help Nepal address poverty and inequality; achieve sustainable economic growth; provide clean water, sanitation, energy, and health care; protect natural resources; reduce child mortality rates, and create decent jobs for youth.

Challenges to Democratic Reforms in Nepal

Since the end of the Nepali Civil War in 2006, Nepal has worked to establish a more stable democracy. However, the country faces many challenges in this regard. For one, Nepal is a very diverse country, and it has more than 100 different ethnic groups. This can make reaching a consensus on political issues difficult. Additionally, Nepal is a developing country, and many of its citizens are illiterate. This makes it hard for people to participate fully in the political process.

Moreover, there is a lot of corruption in Nepal’s government. This makes it difficult for the government to function effectively and for the Nepali people to trust their leaders. Finally, Nepal is between two mighty countries, India and China. However, Nepal has historically had good relations with these countries, and some worry they will conflict as they become more economically and militarily powerful. Nepal could find itself drawn into these conflicts if not careful. Nepal must also face climate change and natural disasters like earthquakes. These changes have caused the poverty rate to increase by 5% since 1991. Nepal has tried to address these problems; in 2015, they announced a new constitution that enshrines secularism and gender equality, among other progressive ideas. Nepal is now working toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals SDGs. These goals include ending poverty, providing education for all children everywhere, promoting clean energy use, fighting climate change, and taking urgent action on environmental pollution. Nepal still has a long way to go before it achieves these goals, but recent progress gives hope for continued improvement.

Role of Global Communities in Supporting Democratic Reforms

In recent years, Nepal has made great strides in consolidating its democracy. Global communities can play a role in supporting these democratic reforms by providing financial assistance and technical support. In addition, they can also help to promote good governance practices and raise awareness about the importance of democracy. Nepal still has a long way to go in achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Still, achieving these goals with the international community’s support is possible. It is essential for Nepal to consider its geopolitical location and how this affects public policy because it will influence whether or not other countries want to cooperate with Nepal on issues such as trade, security, education, and more. Countries like China are seeking to extend their influence over Nepal due to Nepal’s strategic position in South Asia. Countries such as India are concerned that if Nepal becomes too dependent on China, it could lead to increased terrorist activity within Nepal. The Nepalese government should work closely with the Indian and Chinese governments to develop a foreign policy that promotes Nepal’s sovereignty while ensuring peace in the region. Nepal’s natural resources make it an attractive candidate for development. It possesses vast hydropower potential, which could power industries throughout Nepal, making it one of the least-polluting energy sources.

Additionally, Nepal has extensive reserves of chromite which could be used to make products such as stainless steel, chrome plating, and chemicals, including fertilizer. Nepal must consider its geopolitics to develop public policy because there are many competing interests between neighboring countries that Nepal needs to consider when forming relations with neighboring nations. Suppose a government wishes to establish better relationships with other countries through trade agreements or other means. In that case, they need to know what those neighbors expect from them in return – what kind of agreements would need to be established?


In conclusion, Nepal’s governance system is shaped by various factors, including its history, geography, religion, and culture. These factors significantly impact Nepal’s politics, international relations, geopolitics, and public policy. Nepal has achieved some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but much work still needs to be done. To further its progress, Nepal must continue to address the challenges posed by these various factors. Nepal can ensure they meet the SDG targets by continuing to work toward achieving its goals. The geopolitics of Nepal also plays an essential role in shaping how it reaches sustainable development. For example, through trade agreements with China and India, Nepal will see an increase in its Gross Domestic Product and economic stability in both countries. If Nepal continues to move forward with its sustainability goals, it will be able to successfully meet many more targets than just those outlined under SDG 17 (life on land).

Author: Arindam Bhattacharya

Chairman, Advocacy Unified Network


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