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Nepal feels both geopolitical and geotectonic squeeze

Himalayan nation under pressure to stay prepared for fresh tensions, geographic and political

| Mongolia, Central Asia, Afghanistan
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A laborer sits atop debris from of a monastery damaged during the 2015 earthquake in Kathmandu on Jan. 11.   © Reuters

Sandwiched between two of the world's largest countries, Nepal has always described itself as a "small" country. But with a population of 28 million, it is still the world's 40th most populous nation. It is small only compared with China, to the north, and India, to the south, which together account for one-third of humanity.

It is also one of the most vertical countries in the world, rising from near sea level in the southern plains to the top of Mt. Everest at 8,848 meters, within a distance of only 80 km. Nepalis like to joke that there are six directions in their country: north, south, east, west, up and down. This makes the country very scenic -- and very seismic.

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