Nepal to make efforts to convene Saarc Summit at earliest

Kathmandu: A day after Pakistan formally announced postponement of the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad, Nepal on Sunday said it will contact all member states of the South Asian grouping and make efforts to convene the summit conference at the earliest.

An official from the Nepali Foreign Ministry said Kathmandu will reach out to all Saarc members to reschedule the summit which was slated to be held on November 9-10, the Kathmandu Post reported.

“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 “Prachanda”.

“We will discuss both the venue and dates with other member countries.”

Adhikari’s remarks come after India on Tuesday pulled out of the summit, saying that “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”.

New Delhi’s decision was backed by Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan, who too on Wednesday expressed their inability to attend the conference.

Sri Lanka on Friday became the fifth country in the eight-member regional grouping to pull out of the summit, prompting Pakistan to postpone the summit.

Nepali Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat, who returned from the US after taking part in the UN General Assembly on Saturday, told the media 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.

He called on all the member countries to be sensitive about the importance of the forum for the development of the region.

It was not clear whether Nepal will send envoy(s) to all member states or convene a meeting of officials to zero in on the dates and venue for the 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 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 came in the wake of the September 18 terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir, which left 19 soldiers dead.

Meanwhile, Nepali officials maintained that they will try to reach unanimous consensus on rescheduling the summit in Islamabad or any other venue.

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

All decisions of the Saarc are decided by consensus.