SAARC Summit: Pakistan plays spoilsport, blocks three connectivity pacts

news
27 November 2014

The 18th summit meeting of South Asian Association for regional Cooperation (SAARC) is destined to end without achieving any substantial progress with Pakistan deciding to play spoilsport by blocking three major connectivity projects initiated by India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, avoided meeting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif even as he held bilaterals with five other South Asian leaders in Katmandu.

Modi today had bilateral meetings with five heads of state on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu. These included Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Bangaladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghanistan President Dr Ashraf Ghani, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Maldives President Abdulla Yameen.

The three connectivity projects proposed by India at the 18th SAARC summit and stalled by Pakistan included an electricity grid and trade in electricity, road projects and rail connectivity.

Pakistan decided to stall the signing of agreements on these on the premise that it still had to conclude its "internal processes" on connectivity issues.

While Modi, who gave a forceful speech at the summit on the need for seamless connectivity, met his Bangladeshi and Bhutanese counterparts Sheikh Hasina and Tshering Tobgay, and later the presidents of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives - Ashraf Ghani, Mahindra Rajapaksa and Abdulla Yameen - Sharif was not on the list.

India's external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said there was "no structured meeting" planned between the two leaders as India had not received any request for such a meeting from Pakistan.

However, there is speculation that the two leaders could meet tomorrow during the retreat at the Dhulikhel resort.

Nepal is trying its level best to see that the summit should not go empty, and trying to get Pakistan on board for the agreements.

India's proposals for greater SAARC integration comes amid China's push to get its observer status upgraded to that of a member.

Pakistan mooted the idea of upgrading China's and South Korea's status in the organisation at a meeting of SAARC foreign ministers yesterday.

India was quick to rebuff the proposal, with the foreign ministry spokesperson saying intra-SAARC cooperation needed to be deepened first.

In his address Wednesday, Sharif stressed the role of observers, while Rajapaksa, whose country also has increasing interaction with Beijing, said: "It is imperative to seek ways and means in enhancing this engagement with the observer states, and consider graduating their role to a more project-based, results-oriented partnerships."

China, which shares border with five SAARC nations, is among the nine observer nations.





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