At a time when India and Pakistan are locked in a tussle over death sentence awarded to former Navy official Kulbhushan Jadhav by a Pakistani military court, New Delhi has cleared a proposal to host a disaster management seminar for officials from Pakistan and other SAARC countries in Gandhinagar, said officials. The seminar is likely to be held in May.
“We have finalised the SAARC training plan, and Pakistan will be invited. But it is up to Islamabad to decide whether it wants to send their representative or not,” said a senior MHA official. North Block officials also said the stand-off over Jadhav may lead to souring of ties in other fields, including cooperation in SAARC matters.
The SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), which was being run from Delhi since last year, was shifted to Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management (GIDM) in January after Pakistan said it has ‘no objection’ to moving the institute to Gujarat. Other SAARC nations, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka had already given their nod, officials said.
Retired IAS officer P K Mishra, currently Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, was earlier the director of GIDM. Government sources told The Indian Express that the Ministry of External Affairs recently cleared a grant of Rs 47 lakh for SDMC and informed the Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday. Incidentally, Pakistan military court handed over death sentence to 46-year-old Jadhav on the same day.
According to the Home Ministry’s proposal, GIDM will hold a module on ‘application of space technology and managing risks’ and ‘programme on short-range regional early warning system’.
While the lecture on space technology will be a three-day programme, the seminar on early warning will have experts and special invitees from SAARC countries and will be a two-week residential event that will host nearly two dozen participants.
Officials said Islamabad too was keen on having the SAARC Disaster Management Centre but a compromise was worked out during a SAARC meet last year where the Council agreed to set up SDMC in India and proposed to expand an existing centre in Pakistan that will look after the environmental issues.
Pakistan had faced embarrassment in November after India and other nations boycotted the SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad forcing the host country to cancel the event. India was the first to announce that it will not participate in the meet in wake of the Uri attack.