PAKISTAN BLOCKS KEY CONNECTIVITY AGREEMENTS
Saarc summit kicks off aiming to promote integration for peace
Pakistan yesterday stalled inking of Saarc connectivity agreements, including the motor vehicle pact, saying it was yet to complete its “internal process,” despite strong push from India and Sri Lanka.
Although disappointed with Pakistan’s stance, India did not give up its pursuit for regional connectivity, initiating bilateral deals with other flexible Saarc countries such as Tuesday’s Motor Vehicle Agreement with Nepal, sources said.
“South Asia is slowly coming together. India and Bangladesh have deepened their links through rail, road, power and transit. India and Nepal have started a new era of cooperation in energy; and, India and Bhutan are making those ties stronger by the day,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Infrastructure is our region’s greatest weakness and it is most pressing need. When I thought of coming to Kathmandu by road, it made many officials in India nervous. Because of the condition of roads at the border! Infrastructure is my greatest priority in India. And, I also want to set up a Special Purpose Facility in India to finance infrastructure projects in our region that enhances our connectivity and trade,” he said.
In her speech at the 18th Saarc Summit in Kathmandu yesterday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh was in favour of early signing of the regional motor vehicle and railway agreements, saying the pacts would help boost trade.
She also said: “The countries of the Saarc region can actually attain collective political will and ambition but we need to set aside our differences.”
She also stressed the needs for building regional food and seed banks and greater cooperation in increasing productivity.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit kicked off in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu yesterday morning, with the theme “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity.”
Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala inaugurated the two-day regional jamboree at the City Hall, when the Maldives handed over chairmanship to Nepal. This is the third time that Nepal is hosting the Summit after 2002 and 1987.
While opening the summit, Nepalese PM Sushil Koirala said: “Terrorism is our common enemy and South Asia is the worst victims of it. Terrorism of all forms and manifestations infuriates extremism and religious fundamentalism and undermines peace and stability. So we should take measures collectively and unequivocally to combat terrorism.”
He also emphasised the need for building an institutional framework under the Saarc as well as honest and effective cooperation of all institutions and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism.
There has been a lot of speculation over whether Indian PM Modi was going to hold sideline talks in Kathmandu with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
India and Pakistan have been involved in a war of words after New Delhi cancelled a foreign secretary-level meeting in August after Pakistan’s envoy in India met Kashmiri separatists ahead of the talks.
Upon his arrival in Kathmandu, when journalists asked about possibility of talks, Sharif said the question should be put to his Indian counterpart.
However, according to NDTV, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has said there was no such meeting on Modi’s formal agenda.
The leaders of the eight member countries delivered spoke in the inaugural session. Nine observers from China, USA, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, Iran and the European Union are also attending the Summit.
The eight leaders will also meet privately during a retreat at a resort in Dhulikhel on Thursday. The concluding session of the Summit will be held at the City Hall on Thursday, when Kathmandu Declaration will be issued and some regional agreements signed.
NOVEMBER 27, 2014