Heads of state, govt in, summit begins today

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Nov 25, 2014-

The Saarc Summit has returned to Kathmandu after 12 years as Nepal hosts the 18th summit of the regional grouping on Wednesday and Thursday.

Seven heads of state and government, foreign ministers and senior officials from member states have arrived in Kathmandu.

In the run up to the summit, the meetings of the Programming Committee, Standing Committee and Saarc Council of Ministers were held.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, president of Afghanistan; Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh;  Tshering Tobgay, prime minister of Bhutan; Narendra Modi, prime minister of India; Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, president of the Maldives; Nawaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan; and Mahinda Rajapaksa, president of Sri Lanka, are in the Capital for the summit.

All the preparations related to logistics, infrastructure and paperwork have been over. Apart from approving the calendar for 2015, the member states and delegations will discuss strengthening cooperation among them in trade, commence, connectivity, integration, energy cooperation, climate change, terrorism, education and food security.

With the theme “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity”, the summit will focus on connecting people in the region through governmental and non-governmental initiatives. “Our focus should be on implementing past agreements rather than committing new issues and projects,” said Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey.

Since Friday, senior officials from the member states have been brainstorming the contents of the Kathmandu Declaration.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will inaugurate the summit on Wednesday morning at City Hall after the incumbent chair, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, formally opens the event. When Yameen hands over the chairmanship to Koirala, the formal summit process begins. The heads of state and government will then address the summit in the alphabetical order of the names of the member states. Each of the nine observers will get five minutes to speak. Then negotiations for the declaration begin at various levels.

After the inauguration, the heads of state and government, and foreign ministers will hold bilateral talks. “We have arranged for venues for bilateral talks,” said Foreign Minister Pandey.

The meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers held several rounds of formal and informal talks to finalise three pacts. The delay has affected decision on the Kathmandu Declaration.

Pakistan has expressed some reservations about the clauses of the proposed Saarc Motor Vehicle Agreement, Saarc Railway Agreement and Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation. Sri Lanka wants the issue of maritime piracy addressed.

After the daylong meeting was indecisive, foreign ministers joined a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Pandey at the Gallery Hall in Singha Durbar. They waited for the arrival of the Pakistani prime minister on Tuesday evening for a breakthrough.

Efforts at consensus for the agreements are expected to go till midnight if necessary. “The meeting has resumed after dinner. We are trying to end the logjam,” said Pandey.

The closing ceremony of the summit will be held on Thursday after a retreat of the heads of state and government in Dulikhel. A dinner reception, hosted by President Ram Baran Yadav at Sheetal Niwas, will follow. Indian PM Modi and Pakistani PM Sharif will then leave for New Delhi and Islamabad. Other Saarc leaders will depart on Friday morning. The first ladies will be taken around Bhaktapur and other destinations during their stay in Nepal.

Published: 26-11-2014 12:30

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