Anil Giri, The Kathmandu Post, March 06, 2018
Kathmandu-Nepal and Pakistan agreed to revive the stalled Saarc process, at bilateral talks held on Monday evening between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and visiting Pakistani PM Shahid Khaquan Abbasi.
Abbasi arrived in Kathmandu earlier on a two-day official visit to congratulate Oli on his appointment as the PM. The two sides are said to have discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. Particular focus was on expediting the stalled South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation process as Abbasi expressed his desire to host the 19th summit of the regional grouping and asked Nepal to create a favourable environment for the same.
“The two PMs discussed about enhancing regional development. And they also agreed to make Saarc a more effective organisation by infusing vigour into it and by taking other initiatives,” Bishnu Rimal, chief adviser to PM Oli, said after the meeting.
The two prime ministers also discussed the geopolitical situation, said sources. In the changing regional context, the two leaders discussed ways to make joint moves, said an official privy to the meeting. Even as Saarc technical committees are meeting regularly, the 19th Saarc Summit scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan in 2016 was postponed after India unilaterally decided to skip the event citing an attack at its army base in Uri of Jammu and Kashmir.
On Monday, Abbasi clearly voiced his desire to host the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad. “Both the leaders have agreed to sort issues through talks if any dispute arises in the Saarc process,” said Rimal. As delegation level talks began, the Pakistani PM extended his congratulatory message to Oli saying that the sole purpose of his visit was to congratulate the Nepali PM in person.
While accepting the congratulatory message, PM Oli apprised Abbasi of the political developments in Nepal. After the three-tier elections, Oli expressed his hope, Nepal would have political stability and would focus on rapid economic growth.
“We’ve come across a long political transition, which is now over,” Oli said, expressing his desire to work closely with Pakistan in areas of mutual interest.
Bilateral and multilateral issues also figured in the meeting, with the two prime ministers agreeing to further bilateral ties.
Oli is said to have accepted Abbasi’s invitation to visit Pakistan. He later hosted a dinner in honour of the Pakistani delegation. Former prime ministers and top leaders of major political parties attended the dinner.
On Tuesday, Abbasi will be meeting with CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and President Bidya Devi Bhandari. He will also visit the Saarc Secretariat and plant a tree and meet with officials there. Accompanied by two dozen officials, Abbasi landed in Kathmandu on Monday afternoon.
Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada received him at the airport. A 19-gun salute was offered to the visiting prime minister at the Nepal Army Pavilion in Tundhikhel after PM Oli welcomed him at the VVIP lounge of the Sainik Manch. The Oli government had decided not to accord the guard of honour at the Tribhuvan International Airport, a tradition followed for years.