Kathmandu, March 12
Pokhara is all set to host the 37th Session of SAARC Council of Ministers from March 14-17, when foreign ministers of South Asian countries will review the progress made on the agendas taken up during the last Summit and delve into ways to address the unaccomplished ones.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said preparations for the foreign ministerial meeting, which is also known as SAARC inter-session or mini-summit, have been completed.
The ministerial meeting itself is being held on March 17, but it will be preceded by meetings of SAARC Programming Committee and Standing Committee — to be led by foreign secretaries — on March 14-15, and March 16, respectively.
SAARC division heads and foreign secretaries of all member-states will reach Pokhara for the same by tomorrow and on March 15, respectively.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will inaugurate the ministerial session at Hotel Pokhara Grande, for which the foreign/external affairs ministers of SAARC members — including Afghanistan’s Salahuddin Rabbani, Bangladesh’s Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, Bhutan’s Damcho Dorgi, India’s Sushma Swaraj, Maldives’ Dunya Maumoon, and Sri Lanka’s Mngala Samaraweera — are due to reach the Lake City on March 16.
From Pakistan, adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, would take part in the meeting, according to foreign ministry Spokesperson Tara Prasad Pokhrel. Talking to The Himalayan Times, SAARC Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa said the meeting would extensively review the status of the agendas adopted by the 18th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu in November 2014 and come up with necessary measures to carry forward the unaccomplished ones.
An ambitious 36-point Kathmandu-Declaration was announced by the Kathmandu Summit, including regional cooperation in areas of trade, investment, migrant-labour issues as well as tackling terrorism, promoting linkages, connectivity and tourism and sharing technologies. However, most of these decisions have not been implemented yet.
It is learnt that the much-awaited Railway Service and Motor Vehicle agreements will not be taken up during this meeting. The Kathmandu Summit had pledged to ink these deals within three months through a transport ministerial meeting.
Nevertheless, it is likely to decide the location of the SAARC regional centre for disaster management.
Preparations for the regional meet in full swing
Pokhara, March 11
As the date for the South Asian Association Regional Cooperation ministerial meeting draws closer, preparations for the same in Pokhara, the proposed venue, are in full swing.
According to western regional administrator Shankar Prasad Koriala, road repair, sanitation and city beautification campaigns are running on a war footing in view of the programme. After finalising the Lake City as the venue for the high-profile international meeting, the government had formed a main management support committee led by the regional administrator and 10 other sub-committees to carry out preparatory works.
With the date for the meeting drawing closer, all the committees have given themselves totally up to the mission, said Deputy Regional Administrator Lokraj Regmi.
According to Pokhara sub-metropolis executive officer Jhalakram Adhikari, as many as 17 welcome gates have been erected at different places of the city, including at Prithvichowk, Sirjanachowk, Hotel Grand, Hotel Sangrila, Hotel Fishtail, Rastra Bank Chowk. “Over 300 tree saplings of different species have been planted along the Prithvichowk-meeting venue route and other spots where the guest are scheduled to visit or drop by. Similarly, the clean-up drive in the city has been ramped up,” he said.
“Similarly, while the road from Pokhara airport to Hotel Grande via Mustang Chowk and the road from Hotel Grande to Hotel Sangrila have already been repaired, the road from Mustang Chowk to Hotel Fishtail will be repaired in a day or two,” he added. Regmi also expressed satisfaction at the preparations for the meeting.
A version of this article appears in print on March 13, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.