SAARC agreements hang fire


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his<br /><br />
Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, did not greet<br /><br />
each other at the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu on<br /><br />

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, did not greet each other at the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu on Wednesday.

pakistan is likely to clear the energy cooperation draft agreement at the SAARC summit here, but may not agree to other landmark agreements planned, including the motor vehicles agreement and railway linkages pact.

Sources say Pakistani officials indicated that the energy cooperation agreement would be agreed to “in principle” by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before the closing ceremony of the summit.

While the agreement will ensure that the Kathmandu Declaration is not a complete failure, there is clear disappointment over the other two agreements.

Officials said the final draft Kathmandu Declaration was still being ironed out, and may incorporate some of the discussions on the role of observers and agricultural initiatives such as a seed bank and a food bank. India’s proposal that SAARC summits should be held at least once every two years has also been accepted.

Speaking to The Hindu, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz would only say, “It is incorrect to say Pakistan is blocking the agreements, we are simply asking for more time.” Asked if there was still hope of Mr. Sharif agreeing to sign the drafts while in Nepal, Mr. Aziz said: “There is still one more day of the summit. A lot can happen.”

Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told The Hindu that he was still “very hopeful” of an agreement when the leaders went into a retreat on Thursday.

Confirming the differences with Pakistan, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Khagnath Adhikar said, “Pakistan has said that it needs more time on internal preparations.” Pakistani officials said objections to the motor vehicle and railway agreements had come from the truckers and transporters associations in Pakistan, and the government had to clear their doubts before clearing the agreements.

“Other SAARC leaders spoke to Prime Minister Modi about the situation,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, “They are worried that it doesn’t augur well for SAARC if these agreements don’t go through, as even the previous SAARC at Addu had seen several agreements signed.”

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