Nepal will be “happy” to host an informal summit of the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on the sidelines of the coming Sagarmatha Sambaad here.
Speaking to Indian journalists here on Friday, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali reiterated that Nepal would also work to build greater connectivity with China. “It will be fantastic. We will be happy to welcome all SAARC leaders and provide them with... [an opportunity] to discuss measures informally to develop cooperation,” he said.
This offer gives a chance to revive the forum, which has been unable to meet formally during the last four years because of the negative India-Pakistan relations. The SAARC summit could not be held in Islamabad in 2016 after India faced terror strikes blamed on elements in Pakistan.
Mr. Gyawali said Kathmandu had invited all SAARC heads of government for Sagarmatha Sambaad, the first edition of a multi-stakeholder dialogue, to be held from April 2 to 4 and argued that an alternative to the formal summit model could be explored. He said Nepal had served out its tenure as chair of the regional body and was “eager” to pass the position to the next in line, Pakistan.
“We are optimistic that an alternative way to revive the regional formation could be found,” Mr. Gyawali said, arguing that coordination at the regional level would be essential to tackle challenges before South Asian countries.
The offer of an informal summit is in line with the current global trend whenever a formal agenda could not be worked out because of the contradictory positions of the stakeholders.
Mr. Gyawali said Kathmandu wanted to broaden connectivity with China. “We want to build crossborder railways, highways, and port connectivity with China.” Nepal hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in October when both sides sealed several agreements, including the one for a cross-Himalayan Keyrung-Kathmandu train project.
Mr. Gyawali referred to Nepal’s border dispute with India at Kalapani as a burden from history. “If India can resolve such issues with countries like Bangladesh, why can’t Kalapani be resolved,” he asked, advocating talks.