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Saarc mini summit: No headway in standing committee meet

- LAL PRASAD SHARMA, ANIL GIRI, Pokhara

Mar 17, 2016-

The Saarc Standing Committee has failed to reach agreement on the pressing issues, including regional integration and connectivity, prompting fears that the Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday could fail.

The 42nd meeting of Saarc Standing Committee at foreign secretary level held on Wednesday could not reach any understanding on expediting the regional integration, connectivity, signing the Saarc youth charter and projects approval for nine observer nations among others. Altogether 32 agenda items were presented at Wednesday’s meeting, but many of them remained unresolved and have now been forwarded to the ministerial level meeting to be held on Thursday.

The only positive news out of the foreign secretary level meeting was an agreement to host the summit in November every two years. 

During Wednesday’s meeting, Nepal also agreed to join the India-initiated Saarc Satellite Project which was approved by Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. 

The Saarc satellite will be used for meteorological purpose and information and communication sharing.

The meeting has forwarded several recommendation and suggestion to Saarc Council of Ministers for further consideration on various unfinished businesses. The one-day meeting ministerial level meeting to be held on Thursday in Pokhara will be inaugurated by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.   

The meeting is also expected to announce new dates for upcoming Saarc Summit to be held in Pakistan and announcement of new secretary general from Pakistan.

Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi, who presided over the Standing Committee meeting, said that 32 agenda items, including regional integration, connectivity and status of implementation of various past accords, were presented during the meeting.

The proposition to open up the infrastructure window under the Saarc Development Fund to execute mega infrastructure projects also failed to make any headway.

Officials could not resolve differences over creating South Asian Economic Union, a duplication of European Union, and member states also could not agree on Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement, which wasn’t signed during the last Saarc Summit despite being on the agenda. Similarly, member states also could not agree on Saarc youth charter and engaging with Observers on project based cooperation. The nine Observers were allowed to put funds in seven priority areas, but no single project has been approved so far. “We want to make Saarc a vertical and deepening organisation rather than widening one,” Foreign Secretary Bairagi said.

The meeting of Council of Ministers on Thursday will take up some new agendas and recommendations suggested by foreign secretary level meeting.

Foreign ministers arriveTo take part in 37th Saarc ministerial level meeting, foreign ministers from six-member countries have arrived in Pokhara.Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa held talks with his counterparts from Bangladesh and Afghanistan on Wednesday. DPM Thapa hosted a dinner in honour of visiting delegation on Wednesday. Thapa is also meeting Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. Prime Minister KP Oli and Swaraj held talks on Wednesday evening. 

Published: 17-03-2016 08:50

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