Nepal pushes for revival of South Asian bloc

Last meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held in Kathmandu in 2014

Nepal pushes for revival of South Asian bloc

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA

Nepal on Friday made a strong push for revival of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Indian media reported.

During his visit to India, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said “differences” between member states of SAARC should be resolved through dialogue, the Press Trust of India (PTI) said in a report.

SAARC is an 8-member regional organization in South Asia for economic cooperation among India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Citing alleged cross-border terrorism, India has repeatedly refused to attend SAARC summit which is overdue since 2016 when Pakistan had to host it.

Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh followed suit and refused to participate in the summit.

“If U.S. President Trump and North Korea’s Kim can meet, then why not [leaders of] other countries,” the PTI quoted Gyawali as saying during an interaction with a group of foreign policy experts and reporters in Indian capital New Delhi.

In an unprecedented thaw in ties, the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea met three times in 2018 — in April, May, and September.

However, Gyawali advocated dialogue to resolve differences: “There is no alternative to sitting together and mitigating differences. The problems we [the region] are facing cannot be resolved alone. We need to put collective efforts to deal with various key challenges like climate change and terrorism.”

The foreign minister of land-locked Himalayan country said that he raised the issue of summit with his Indian counterpart.

“The grouping [SAARC] should collectively deal with terrorism and other key challenges facing the region,” he suggested.

The last summit of the regional bloc was held in Kathmandu in 2014, which was attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other regional leaders.

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