Terming the calling off of the SAARC Summit as “very unfortunate”, Nepal, which chairs the grouping, today said India and Pakistan should resolve their differences through diplomatic efforts. Nepal’s Minister of Commerce Romi Gauchan Thakali said the country lays “great emphasis” on fostering regional trade, investment and economic cooperation among SAARC as well as the BIMSTEC members.
“I think abandoning the Summit is very unfortunate whatever the cause is there but I hope both nations are able to solve it with their diplomatic efforts. I hope this will happen very soon,” Thakali told reporters.
He, however, termed the issues between India and Pakistan as their “internal matter”, adding that it would have been “much better if the (SAARC) Summit had happened”.
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The 19th SAARC Summit, scheduled to take place in Pakistani capital Islamabad from November 9 to 10 was cancelled following the pull-out by five members.
Besides India, three other members — Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan — pulled out of the summit, indirectly blaming Pakistan for creating an environment which is not right for the successful holding of the meet.
Sri Lanka also pulled out of the Summit becoming the fifth country to do so.
SAARC members include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Thakali said the BIMSTEC region confronts a wide range of inter-related challenges such as terrorism, trans-national crimes, human drug trafficking, climate change and food security, among others.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation involving a group of countries in South Asia and South East Asia. These include Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
Asked what was holding back the conclusion of the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement, the Minister said “there are plenty of issues which are still to be negotiated on the table”, adding that an early conclusion of the FTA will benefit all nations involved. Thakali said Nepal was looking forward to enhancing connectivity with India through new trade and transit ports.
He pitched for adoption of a “collaborative approach” to tackle the challenges confronting the BIMSTEC region.