Gokarna Resort ruled out as retreat for BIMSTEC leaders

Kathmandu August 25

Bad news for leaders of BIMSTEC countries assembling in Kathmandu on August 30 and 31 for a crucial regional summit. They will have to stay put at the summit venue itself even during the retreat.

The reasons: The Thai prime minister won’t travel by road to Gokarna Forest Resort; and Plan B — airlifting the visiting dignitaries — has proved infeasible because the Nepali Army’s MI17 helicopters cannot land there.

Retreats, meant to serve as bilateral engagement platforms for leaders on the sidelines of summit meetings, are usually held away from the summit venue.

The government today made last minute cancellation of Gokarna Forest Resort as retreat for the heads of governments and states attending the summit.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli ordered the cancellation following the Thai ambassador’s intimation to the Nepal government that Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would not travel by road to Gokarna citing security reasons and the condition of the road.

The Thai Ambassador reportedly stated that the road was in bad shape and travel to Gokarna through dense settlements would be risky. This apparently forced Prime Minister Oli to decide on Soaltee Hotel, where the Summit is being held. The government is yet to officially announce change in the retreat plan.

Repeated attempts by The Himalayan Times to speak to the Thai Ambassador in Kathmandu failed.

“The BIMSTEC summit preparation team has been consulting member countries’ representatives on preparations. We can accept some of their valuable suggestions and advices but as the host country, we will decide which programme will be held where,” a MoFA official told THT.

The government had hastily repaired and blacktopped the Chabahil-Gokarna road stretch, but locals objected to temporary blacktopping when senior leader of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Minister of Physical infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth visited Boudha a couple of days back.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha are arriving on August 30. Myanmar President Win Myint, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Bhutan’s Chief Justice and Chief Adviser of the Interim Government Tshering Wangchuk will arrive on August 28.