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Nepal to host SAARC Council of Ministers' meeting virtually in third week of September

DIGEST-ENG-29-08-2020-Nepal

Nepal will host a virtual meeting of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Council of Ministers in the third week of September on the sidelines of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nepal government, as the current chair of the eight-member regional body, is making preparations to host the virtual meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers.

According to Yuba Raj Khatiwada, the spokesperson for the government, a recent Cabinet meeting decided to form a four-member panel under the leadership of Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali to host the virtual meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers.

The meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers is an annual affair and usually takes place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  The SAARC, which was established in 1985, has made little progress largely due to rivalry between two arch rivals Indian and Pakistan.

The virtual meeting, however, will not have much of its impact when it comes to reviving the stalled SAARC process and holding the SAARC summit anytime soon, people familiar with the development said.  

SAARC summits have not been held since 2016 after India, one of the key actors in the SAARC, has been distancing itself from organization, accusing Pakistan of harboring cross-border terrorism. While, Pakistan has been consistently denying the accusations and blaming India for holding the SAARC process hostage.

As the current chair of the SAARC, Nepal has been consistently asking India, Pakistan and other member states to revitalize the SAARC process on several occasions. However, the SAARC process has remained stalled as India has been taking a much harder approach toward it.

Amid India-Pakistan rivalry over a host of issues, New Delhi has shifted its focus from the SAARC to another regional organization Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).