SAARC transport ministers’ meet put off; not possible before October


The transport ministers’ meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation has been put off once again until further notice.

Nepal, for the second time, had proposed a date of July 21-22 for the meeting in Kathmandu. Some member states, including the Maldives and Bhutan, had given the consent but some other expressed their inconvenience due to the Muslim festival Eid-ul-Fitr.

Pakistan informed it was yet to complete its internal procedure on the proposed SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement, officials said.

The meeting was initially scheduled for May, which couldn’t take place due to the April 25 earthquake in Nepal.

Transport ministers of eight SAARC countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — were supposed to meet within three months of the 18th SAARC Summit that was concluded in November.

The meeting is critical to finalise the proposed SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement, which couldn’t be finalised after the Pakistani side said it was yet to finalise domestic procedures to sign the regional treaty.

Acting Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi said a new date was being worked out. Officials, however, said it is unlikely that the meeting will be held before October because of seasonal hectic diplomatic schedules and other factors.

The United Nations General Assembly begins by mid-September and all the countries of SAARC region will take part in the annual diplomatic gathering in New York, USA.

“Given these factors, chances of holding the transport ministers’ meeting before October are slim,” a foreign ministry official said.