PM Koirala to attend SAARC summit

Kathmandu, March 19:

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is scheduled to leave for New Delhi on April 2 to participate in the 14th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit, but it remains unclear whether he would lead the Nepali delegation as the Prime Minister of the present government or of the ‘soon-to-be-formed’ interim government.

It is also not clear who would attend the SAARC ministerial meeting as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, if the interim government is formed before April.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has begun necessary preparations to attend the summit.

“Yes, the Prime Minister Koirala is scheduled to leave a day prior to the summit,” Bhagirath Basnet, Secretary at the MoFA, told The Himalayan Times.

Officials said finalisation of members of the Nepali delegation and the issues to be discussed at various levels of meetings prior to the summit are underway.

“The members of the delegation to participate in the summit are normally finalised by the cabinet only about a week before the summit,” said an official at the MoFA.

This year, Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, as a host, has decided that every head of the state or the government should limit her/his speech to a maximum of seven minutes at the inaugural session in New Delhi on April 3.

With Afghanistan joining SAARC for the first time, as a new member of the regional grouping, there will be eight top leaders with 56 minutes of keynote speeches.

Also for the first time, China, Japan, the United States, the European Union and South Korea would attend the summit as observers.

The summit, with the theme of connectivity, would consider on Iran’s application to obtain an observer status in SAARC.

India is reported to be busy making high security arrangements for the south Asian leaders — Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapakse, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, Bangladesh’s new caretaker chief Fakhruddin Ahmed, Pakistan’s Shaukat Aziz, Maldives’ Abdul Gayoom, Bhutan’s Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, and Nepal’s Koirala and India’s Singh.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso are reportedly confirmed to attend the summit.

South Korean foreign minister Song Min-soon is likely to be in New Delhi, while the EU and China still have to confirm representation.

This time, the foreign ministers’ meeting is also likely to finalise the deal towards the establishment of the SAARC Food Bank in order to meet the growing pressure on food and nutrition security of more than 1.5 billion people in the region.