POKHARA: Foreign ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation members on Wednesday arrived in Pokhara for the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting.
While six delegation leaders reached the Lake City via Kathmandu, Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj directly landed at the Pokhara Airport from India on a helicopter.
The meeting, which will formally open on Thursday, will endorse decisions of the SAARC Programming Committee (which includes joint secretaries) and Standing Committee (which includes foreign secretaries).
The Programming Committee had met on Monday and Tuesday, and the Standing Committee on Wednesday.
The meeting tomorrow will also fix the date of the 19th SAARC Summit. Pakistan will host the regional jamboree in 2016.
It will review decisions of the 36th session of the Council of Ministers held on the sidelines of the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.
Various committees involving ministers of various portfolios will present their reports in the meeting tomorrow.
Seven member nations except Afghanistan will be represented by the foreign ministers in the Council of Ministers meeting while Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Hekmat Khalil Karzai will represent the nation.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is also in Pokhara currently. As the current chairperson of the regional body, he will inaugurate the 37th session of the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Nepal and India signed and exchanged an memorandum of understanding on extending cooperation with the SAARC Satellite to be launched by India.
Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communications Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya and Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae signed the agreement.
During the 18th SAARC summit held in Nepal in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mooted the idea of the satellite serving the needs of SAARC member nations.
Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa will host a dinner to honour the guests tonight.
Thapa also held bilateral meeting with the Afghan delegation leader Karzai and Bangladeshi Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahmood Ali.
According to an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thapa and Ali discussed expediting works for the Kakarbhitta-Phulbari transit route and enhancing trade and transit activities among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
Likewise, in the Thapa-Karzai meeting, matters of bilateral relations were discussed.
He may also hold bilateral meetings with his other counterparts this evening. Thapa’s meeting with Swaraj has already been fixed for this evening after the dinner meeting.
India’s External Affairs Minister Swaraj will call on PM Oli today itself.
A source at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu said a meeting between Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz is likely to be held on the sidelines of the meeting tomorrow.
Meanwhile, SAARC members including India and Pakistan welcomed Nepal’s proposal that its successful community forestry management programme be taken up by all SAARC member states.
Nepal had made the offer during the regional bloc’s 52nd Programming Committee meeting.
According to a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nepal side thanked them for the agreement and has agreed to develop a detailed modality and work plan before sharing it with the regional body’s members.
The members were supposed to finalise and sign the SAARC Youth Charter in the Standing Committee concluded today. It, however, could not be materialised as Afghanistan had some reservation, according to the source.