Senior SAARC officials will meet in Kathmandu this week for the first time to discuss a new date for the 19th SAARC summit which was postponed by Pakistan last year after India and four others pulled out of it accusing Islamabad of not cooperating on combating terrorism.
The meet on February 1-2 to attend the Programming Committee will be the first meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) members since the postponement of the 19th summit that was supposed to take place in Islamabad November, a Nepalese Foreign Ministry official said.
During the meeting, the member states will discuss a number of issues, including the budget of the SAARC Secretariat and five regional centers of SAARC, according to Foreign Ministry sources.
The matter relating to rescheduling the next SAARC summit will also come up during the meeting, to be attended by joint secretaries of the SAARC countries.
Nepal, current chair of the SAARC, had postponed the SAARC Summit until further notice after Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India requested to postpone the summit in Islamabad scheduled for November 9 and 10 last year, following escalation of tension between India and Pakistan.
India and others had blamed Pakistan for not creating a conducive environment and not cooperating on combating cross-border terrorism in South Asia for holding the SAARC Summit, charges rejected by Pakistan.
The decisions made by the programming committee will be forwarded to the Standing Committee for endorsement.
SAARC, a regional body founded in 1985 in South Asia, member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Last week, Pakistan Prime Minister’s advisor on foreign policy Sartaj Aziz said his country remains committed to hosting the 19th SAARC Summit at Islamabad at the earliest so that the objectives of regional cooperation under the SAARC umbrella can be pursued more vigorously.