New energy in SAARC: Summit salvaged as India, Pakistan PMs smile

In diplomacy, a seemingly impossible situation can change dramatically in a few hours’ time. And so it was with the 18th SAARC summit. The jamboree of the South Asian leaders was dismissed till last night as a no-show till some fresh air and spirited talk among leaders at a resort town outside the mountain city of Kathmandu reversed the gloom and doom narrative, with SAARC signing a potentially defining pact on sharing electricity.
As the curtains came down on the two-day SAARC summit, the optics of the summit had changed radically, with the leaders of India and Pakistan warmly shaking hands after the leaders unanimously adopted the Kathmandu Declaration that outlined a reasonably doable agenda for intensifying multifarious cooperation across the spectrum.
India, which was looking visibly disappointed at the stalling of the three SAARC pacts on energy, road and rail connectivity by Pakistan, heaved a sigh of relief with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finally going along with other SAARC leaders to give his assent to the pact on creating a regional power grid.
In the end, it was the relaxed and informal interaction among leaders at the retreat at Dhulikhel, an idyllic resort town located nearly 30 km away from the capital Kathmandu, that did the trick. The view of the majestic Himalayas may have helped clear the air.

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