No progress in SAARC plan on regional integration

The SAARC plan for regional integration has suffered a setback, with top diplomats of South Asian countries failing to reach an agreement in the resort town of Pokhara in Nepal on various issues, including regional integration.

The foreign secretary level meeting, held on March 16, could not make any breakthrough on expediting the regional integration, connectivity, and signing the SAARC youth charter. There were 32 agenda items that were presented at the meeting, but many issues remained unresolved. The unsettled issues have been forwarded to the ministerial level meeting.

During the foreign secretary level meeting, Nepal expressed interest in joining the India-initiated SAARC Satellite Project, which has been backed by Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The SAARC satellite will strengthen information and communication sharing capabilities. The meeting has forwarded several recommendations and suggestions to the SAARC Council of Ministers for further consideration on the issues on the agenda that could not be resolved.

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met Pakistan PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz at a dinner hosted by Nepal’s Foreign Minister K.P. Singh Oli on March 16.  

At the foreign ministers’ meeting, dates for the upcoming SAARC Summit to be held in Pakistan are likely to be announced.

Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi, who presided over the Standing Committee meeting, said that 32 agenda items, including regional integration, connectivity and status of implementation of various past accords, were discussed during the meeting.

Opening up of the infrastructure window under the SAARC Development Fund to execute mega infrastructure projects also failed to make any progress in the meeting.

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