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18 th SAARC summit highlights on first day

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The leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprising of eight members namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka met on 26 th November 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The first day summit was stalled by the rivals India & Pakistan over differences and met the failure to sign three pacts (boosting rail and road connectivity and the establishment of a regional power grid).

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India insisted for regional integration and was strongly pushing to sign the three pacts. While Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Prime Minister opposed the pacts sighting lack of internal process in place. Sharif also voiced concerns for SAARC’s observers (the US, China, Myanmar, Iran, Japan, South Korea and the European Union) opinion, especially China.

China which joined the SAARC as the observer in 2006 has been pushing for its permanent membership. China was backed by Pakistan pitching for China’s membership, which India has strongly opposed. These differences stalled the inking of the three pacts along with Motor Vehicle Pact today.

Modi has promised for special packages to the SAARC countries which include

  • Funds to finance infrastructure projects in the SAARC region which will impact connectivity and trade.
  • Facilities at the borders, business visas with 3-5 years validity or SAARC Business Traveller Card to promote business in the bloc.
  • To launch SAARC satellite that would provide education, telemedicine, disaster response, resource management, weather forecasting and communication benefits in the bloc.
  • With respect to health sector, India would provide funds to establish the SAARC Regional Supra Reference Laboratory for TB and HIV.

He also pitched for co-operation for countering terrorism in the region.