Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has arrived in Kathmandu Tuesday to represent Pakistan at the two-day 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, would begin today. He was received by Deputy Nepalese Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam and accorded a warm welcome at a formal reception. The national anthem of Pakistan was played on the occasion. Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, National Affairs Advisor Irfan Siddiqui and Foreign Advisor Tariq Fatmi have also accompanied him. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Sri Lankan President President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President President Ashraf Ghani, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Maldives President Abdulla Yameen had already arrived in Katmandu. Prior to leaving for Kathmandu, Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan wants peace and stability in the region. He said the ball is in Indian court to resume negotiations with Pakistan as New Delhi had unilaterally suspended the Foreign Secretaries talks. He said we want to transform SAARC into a strong trade and economic bloc on the pattern of the European Union but is only possible in an environment of peace and economic cooperation. On the sidelines of the moot, the PM will meet other leaders of SAARC countries and hold discussions on issues of bilateral and regional interests. Although there is no scheduled meeting between Nawaz and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, both may shake hands in the opening of the summit and at a reception hosted by the Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
A day earlier, Nepalese Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said that he will push for Pakistan-India talks on the sidelines of the SAARC summit which would start from Wednesday. He said that his country would try to crack the nut. Though official talks between the two regional rivals are still uncertain, Nepal is likely to push Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to one table during the retreat organised at Dhulikhel, a hill station near Kathmandu. He also said that SAARC has one very unique practice since its inception. The retreat among the heads of the state and government during the summit provides a platform to hold multilateral and bilateral talks. The talks are going to be held in a very free and frank manner to end mutual suspicion and his country trying to organise bilateral talks between India and Pakistan during the summit so that it can set an example. But it seems hard to melt the ice as Indian authorities seemed very disturbed with the Pakistan as the Prime Minister while his address in the General Assembly of United Nations in New York on September this year highlighted the Kashmir issue and asked the world to resolve the issue according to the resolutions of the United Nations. According to some reports if there would be a chance of any meeting between the premiers of both neighboring countries Indian Prime Minister would present his displeasure with Nawaz Sharif over internationalization of Kashmir issue through United Nations (UN) and constant links of Huriyat leaders of occupied Kashmir between Islamabad. On the other hand, the position of India has always been to resolve the issue through bilateral talks. But both countries need confidence-building measures and the international community’s influence and persuasion were also required to bring India to the negotiating table and solve the long standing issue.
SAARC has not been able to produce results because of India-Pak rivalry but it has potential. Both the countries should recognize that line of control as a sovereign border and must not commit ceasefire violations. Pakistan has written to the United Nations about the unprovoked violation by Indian forces on the boundary line which has taken lives of innocent people living alongside the border areas. It has been seen that Indian Prime Minister has been delivering hatred speeches in India that only the bullet would be the response to at the border, such irresponsible statements must be condemned and international peace keeping forces and major powers must compel India to avoid such extremist statements. SAARC has failed to implement its meaning in a true way like regional cooperation and meetings have become just a gathering of regional leaders. All the leaders must realize that these meetings are burden on the tax payers money and all the eights nations thrive mostly on revenues generated from poor public. It is the time that leaders must propose valuable and useful suggestions like visa on arrival for citizens of SAARC countries, common currency like Euro in the European countries, SAARC bank and SAARC courts to settle internal and regional disputes, etc. A prompt and durable step is to be taken by the member of SAARC states to make this regional organization comparable with other regional organizations like European Union and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It is high time to strengthen the organization and compete the global challenges sincerely. At least dialogue process between Pakistan and India must not be delayed.