Energy deal salvages Saarc summit

Energy deal salvages Saarc summit

The 18th Saarc summit was salvaged from failure on Thursday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of six other nations succeeded in persuading Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give his nod to at least one of the three agreements originally proposed to be inked during the conclave.

The Saarc Framework Agreement for Energy (Electricity) Cooperation was signed by the Foreign Ministers of the eight member nations just before the two-day summit came to its end. The two other deals – Saarc Regional Railways Agreement and Saarc Motor Vehicle Agreement for Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic – could not be inked, as Pakistan maintained that it was yet to complete internal processes required for signing the pacts.

The leaders, however, agreed that the transport ministers of the eight Saarc  nations would meet in the next three months and pave the way for signing the two pending agreements.

With “Deepening Regional Integration for Peace and Prosperity” was the theme for the 18th summit of the 29-year-old bloc, Nepal Government, which hosted the conclave, proposed to sign three agreements to facilitate road and rail connectivity as well as for grid interconnection for supply of electricity within the region.

New Delhi extended its support to Kathmandu and drafts of all the three agreements were cleared by the Government in a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister on November 20.

But Islamabad was not ready to come on board and the deals could not be inked after the inaugural session on Wednesday. Modi, however, pushed for greater economic integration within the region in his address to the summit and several other leaders also agreed with him.

Modi even sent out a tacit message to Sharif, when he told the summit on Wednesday that India was ready to walk the extra miles to deepen economic integration in South Asia and the bond would grow, if not within the entire SAARC, but also amongst some of its members.

However, the retreat at Dhulikhel on Thursday  gave Koirala, Modi and other leaders to make yet another attempt to persuade Sharif to approve the agreements.

Sources said that New Delhi had also tacitly conveyed it to Islamabad that Pakistan would be solely responsible, if the summit ended in a failure without any significant outcome. It was also made clear that failure of the 18th conclave of the bloc would not bode well for the 19th summit that Pakistan would host in Islamabad in 2016, an official told Deccan Herald.

Sharif finally agreed to use his executive authority as Prime Minister of Pakistan to approve one of the proposed pacts – the agreement for energy cooperation within the Saarc countries.

The agreement will enable greater cooperation in the power sector among member countries. It is also expected to improve the power availability in the entire region by facilitating integrated operation of the regional power grid.
Delivering the vote of thanks as the host of the next summit, Sharif told the conclave that the South Asian nations should take realistic and pragmatic approach towards regional integration.

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