Disappointed with Pakistan holding out the three agreements on rail, motor vehicles and power grid connectivity, SAARC leaders are expected to take up the matter with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday.
The leaders are expected to meet at a retreat near Dhulikhel, about 30 km from Kathmandu in a final attempt to salvage these pacts.
Pakistan has conveyed in the last two days that they cannot sign up for these agreements since their “internal processes” have not been completed.
While India is disappointed, it has also made it clear that it has bilateral arrangements through which it can develop linkages with its neighbours.
Infact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the 18th SAARC summit on Wednesday: “The bonds will grow through SAARC or outside it, among us all or some of us. We can all choose our paths to our destinations. But, when we join our hands and walk in step, the path becomes easier, the journey quicker and the destination closer.”
Ministry of External Affairs’ (MEA) official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that India was “disappointed” at the impasse over the agreements.
“This would not augur well if these three agreements are not signed…since in the last SAARC summit, about 7 to 9 agreements had been signed,” he said, adding that the the leaders would informally raise the issue at the retreat.
The spokesperson also said India is “keen” to have these three agreements signed during the summit.
Officials said while India already has bilateral arrangements with SAARC countries on all these fronts, these agreements, if signed, would provide a “framework” for all the countries to develop connectivity. Sources said Nepal is very keen that these agreements are signed, or else this summit could be perceived as unsuccessful.
India, however, did not officially endorse the view.
“SAARC does not stand or collapse on the signing of these agreements. We will be disappointed but can carry on,” the MEA spokesperson said.
These three pacts are Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic amongst Saarc Member States, Saarc Regional Agreement on Railways and Saarc Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity). They have been approved by all member states, excluding Pakistan. The electricity agreement aims to create a regional energy market aimed at enhancing cross-border electricity trade among the South Asian countries.
As per the Motor vehicles agreement, cargo vehicles, passenger vehicles and personal vehicles can move across the region upon fulfilling the specified criteria and in accordance with the customs laws of the member states concerned.
The railways agreement will enable transportation of passengers and goods through railways across the region on certain terms and conditions.