India to turn onus on Pakistan for next Saarc meet

NEW DELHI: All eight member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation are scheduled to gather in Kathmandu on February 1-2 for the first time since the summit was postponed last year to discuss pressing issues, including crossborder terrorism and absence of pan-South Asia connectivity projects that hamper smooth functioning of the grouping.

Senior diplomats of India, Pakistan and other six member nations will discuss the way forward for Saarc, a senior official told ET.

India wants to discuss the various impediments that have kept the region from growing to its potential even three decades after the creation of the grouping.

Nepal, the current chair of Saarc, has convened a meeting of the programme committee of the association in Kathmandu, where diplomats from the member countries are likely to discuss ways to end the stalemate over the 19th summit, apart from scheduling events to be held by the organisation in the coming months. Officials said India will reiterate at the forthcoming meet that while it remains committed to Saarc, the onus to turn the regional situation conducive for holding the summit is on Pakistan.

India remains “steadfast in its commitment” to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts within the Saarc framework, but it believes that such initiatives “can go forward only in an atmosphere free of terror”, an official said.

Pakistan has been blocking connectivity initiatives such as the proposed Saarc Motor Vehicles and Railways Agreements, and refusing to cooperate on combating crossborder terrorism in South Asia.
In absence of Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement, which was blocked by Pakistan at the November 2014 summit, India helped create Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal or BBIN sub-regional grouping. The four nations have conducted a test run of the first truck from Dhaka to Delhi.

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