Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked central Himalayan country in South Asia. It has a population of 26.4 million and is the 93rd largest country by area. Bordering China in the north and India in the south, east, and west, it is the largest sovereign Himalayan state. Nepal does not border Bangladesh, which is located within only 27 km (17 mi) of its southeastern tip. It neither borders Bhutan due to the Indian state of Sikkim being located in between. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains,[subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and largest city. It is a multiethnic nation with Nepali as the official language.
The territory of Nepal has a recorded history since the Neolithic age. The name Nepal is first recorded in texts from the Vedic Age, the era which founded Hinduism, the predominant religion of the country. In the middle of the first millennium BCE, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in southern Nepal. Tibetan Buddhism influenced parts of northern Nepal since the 8th century. The Kathmandu Valley in central Nepal became known as Nepal proper because of its complex urban civilization. It was the seat of the Licchavi and Malla kingdoms. The Himalayan branch of the ancient Silk Road was dominated by the valley’s traders, such as the Lhasa Newar merchants in Tibet. By the 18th century, the Shah dynasty unified the region’s principalities into the Kingdom of Nepal. The country was never colonized but served as a buffer state between Imperial China and British India. The cosmopolitan kingdom boasted of rich traditional art and architecture. Nepal was the world’s last Hindu monarchy until 2008, when it became a republic.
Modern Nepal is a federal secular parliamentary republic. It has seven states. Nepal is a developing nation, ranking 145th on the Human Development Index (HDI) in 2014. The country struggles with the transition from a monarchy to a republic. It also suffers from high levels of hunger and poverty. Despite these challenges, Nepal is making steady progress, with the government declaring its commitment to elevate the nation from least developed country status by 2022. Nepal also has a vast potential to generate hydropower for export.
Nepal hosts the permanent secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), of which it is a founding member. Nepal is also a member of the Non Aligned Movement and the Bay of Bengal Initiative. Nepal has long standing bilateral treaties with the United Kingdom since 1923, India since 1950, and China since 1960. The military of Nepal is the fifth largest in South Asia and is notable for its Gurkha history, particularly during the world wars, and has been a significant contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.