Nepal ‘to reach out’ to all member countries

  • saarc in deep water?
  • As current chair, Kathmandu in bid to get members around the table
- John Narayan Parajuli, Kathmandu

Oct 2, 2016-

A day after Pakistan formally announced postponement of the 19th Saarc Summit that was to be held in Islamabad on November 9-10, senior Nepali officials have said they will make efforts to convene the regional jamboree at the earliest. 

Officials said they would reach out to all Saarc members to reschedule the Summit. 

“As the chair of Saarc, Nepal has to ensure that the Summit takes place at the earliest,” said Rishi Raj Adhikari, foreign affairs adviser to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. “We will discuss both the venue and dates with other member countries.”

India on Tuesday announced that it had pulled out of the Summit, saying “increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of member states by one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad”. Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan then followed suit, expressing their inability to participate in the Summit.

On Friday, Sri Lanka became the fifth country in the eight-member regional bloc to pull out of the Summit, prompting Pakistan, the host country, to postpone the regional meeting sine die.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat, who returned from the US after taking part in the UN General Assembly on Saturday, told mediapersons at Tribhuvan International Airport that consultations would be held with member states “to ensure that the Summit takes place”. 

“A decision regarding the Summit will be taken after holding consultations with all member countries. Dates should be finalised after assurance of participation from all countries,” said Mahat, calling on all member countries to be sensitive about the importance of the regional forum for the development of the region. It is not immediately clear whether Nepal will send envoy(s) to all member states or convene a meeting of foreign ministers or other officials to zero in on the dates and venue for Summit, which as of now seems to be in a state of limbo. 

This is, however, not the first time Saarc has faced such precarious situation.  

In 2002, following tensions between the arch-rivals India and Pakistan, Nepal had sent a special envoy to New Delhi and Islamabad to water down the situation. The Summit was later held.

New Delhi’s decision to pull out of the Summit this time was prompted by a terrorist attack on an Indian Army base in Uri of Kashmir on September 18, where 18 Indian soldiers were killed. 

In Kathmandu, Nepali officials have maintained that they will try to reach consensus on rescheduling the Summit in Islamabad or any other venue unanimously. 

“The foreign minister has just arrived; we will decide in next few days how we should proceed from here,” said PM Dahal’s foreign affairs adviser Adhikari.

Published: 02-10-2016 08:11

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