The strained India-Pakistan relationship seems to have a spillover effect on the ongoing Saarc Summit, with Pakistan expressing reservations over three proposed regional agreements which are expected to spur growth in the region.
The agreements for regional connectivity and integration—Motor Vehicles, Rail Connectivity and Framework on Energy Cooperation—now face a risk of not being ratified unless Saarc leaders could sort them out during a retreat in Dhulikhel on Thursday.
“Pakistan has expressed reservations over three pacts that were expected to be signed during the summit,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Khagnath Adhikari. “But efforts are on to convince them until Thursday. We are at least trying to have the energy related pact ratified.”
Expectations were high in Kathmandu that the agreements to be ratified without any issue after an initial nod from all member states to draft of the proposed agreements forwarded by the Saarc Secretariat.
However, Pakistan put its foot down over the pacts since the start of preparatory meetings. Consequently, Saarc foreign ministers’ meeting was extended till Tuesday midnight. Despite several rounds of official and unofficial talks understanding remained elusive.
Adhikari said Pakistani officials were saying that they could not ratify the agreements as four of their provincial governments are yet to give their consent. Pushed by India, the proposed motor vehicle and railway pacts would allow free movement of both cargo and passenger vehicles among the Saarc member countries.
The railway pact aims to strengthen transport connectivity in the region which also sees a greater scope of promoting social and cultural contact. It would also enable cost-efficient and environment-friendly transportation in the region to boost trade and economic links. Proposed by Nepal, the framework agreement on energy aims to foster greater cooperation in the power sector among the member countries. It envisages improving power availability in the region by facilitating integrated operation of the regional power grid that would allow surplus electricity producers to supply nations that are in deficit. Nepali officials have not given up, though.
“We do not see much problem in the energy pact with minor amendments,” said Adhikari, adding that except for Pakistan cabinet of all other member countries had approved the pact.
An agreement could only be ratified if approved all eight Saarc members.
“But efforts are on to reach an agreement on framework in energy sector during the retreat,” he said.