If Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un can meet in Singapore, why can’t Saarc nations meet too for broader regional cooperation and to mitigate their differences, said visiting Nepal foreign minister Pradip Gyawali Friday. Gyawali made that remark in response to a ToI query on whether or not Kathmandu was pressing India, which will go to polls 3 months from now, for an early Saarc summit.
The 19th Saarc summit was to be held in Islamabad in 2016 but was blocked by India following the URI attack in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed by terrorists from across LoC. India had pulled out of the summit forcing other Saarc nations, barring the Maldives then under Abdulla Yameen, to follow suit.
The comment by Gyawali has again made obvious that of all Saarc nations, Nepal perhaps remains the keenest to have the summit which is held biennially. As the current Chair of Saarc, it believes it has the responsibility to revive the stalled summit process soon.
“There is no alternative to sitting together to mitigate differences. Even large countries can’t solve problems on their own. You need collective efforts to address major issues like climate change and terrorism,” said Gyawali, elaborating further on Nepal’s position on Saarc.
“I am hopeful the summit will be held soon,” he added. Gyawali met his counterpart Sushma Swaraj on Thursday but didn’t confirm if he raised the issue again with her.
Nepal government sources acknowledged though that Nepal understood the summit isn’t possible until members desire so unanimously.
During his visit to India last year, Nepal PM K P Oli had told ToI in an interview that Saarc was the common initiative of the leaders of the region who had all been nurturing this platform of regional cooperation for the past 3 decades.
“We have negotiated, ratified and implemented regional treaties under SAARC and developed elaborate set of institutional mechanisms. And, none of us in the region have ruled out its future,” he had said.
The government in the past couple of years has also staved off pressure from Sri Lanka to move ahead with the summit. India remains convinced that PM Narendra Modi visiting Islamabad for the summit at this stage would be too much of a concession to Pakistan. The government has accused the Imran Khan government, as reported by ToI Friday, of not creating the right conditions for dialogue by seeking to “mainstream terror”. MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar sought to know Friday why Pakistan was not acting against the perpetrators of the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks if it was really serious about its offer of dialogue.