Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Saturday, November 29, 2014, Agrahayan 15, 1421, Safar 5, 1436 Hijr

SAARC meet results belie predictions
Saleem Samad
Published : 2014-11-29,  Time : 00:00,  View Count : 472
Most South Asian print media and opinion-makers on TV channels predicted uncertain outcome from the South Asian regional leader's summit held at Kathmandu last week, which eventually proved wrong.
The two-day 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit concluded on Thursday and was attended by eight-nation heads of state and government at the Nepalese capital.
India PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif handshake is said to have rescued the SAARC summit and salvaged relations between the two countries locked in enmity.
India-Pakistan's simmering border skirmishes and cross-border terrorism prompted the two leaders, Modi and Sharif, to maintain an artificial distance from each other on the inaugural session.
The India-Pakistan bickering seeped into the two-day SAARC summit, as the two nuclear-armed countries which fought three inconclusive wars have cast dark shadows over the summit.
Further frustration was caused from the warning issued by President Ashraf Ghani to the South Asian leaders to try to reinvigorate regional cooperation held back by decades of rivalry between India and Pakistan.
Afghanistan is angry with Pakistan's spy agency ISI for their alleged involvement in proxy war in the neighbouring country and Islamabad doing very little to contain the Taliban infiltration across the border.
It was apparent that diplomats of Pakistan failed to thaw the hearts and minds of three South Asian leaders of Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan to organise meetings on the sidelines of the summit.
Tensed but confident host Nepalese Prime Minister Shushil Koirala frantically lobbied with the leaders of two arch rivals and encouraged them to exchange pleasantries.
Koirala's anxious hands were joined by competent officials of the Nepal Foreign Ministry to influence Pakistan agree on the three key agreements.
On the second and the last day of the summit, Nepalese PM persuaded Modi and Sharif to share t?te-?-t?te in a bid to cheer up the SAARC leader's retreat at a picturesque Dhulikhel resort.
Koirala's haectic lobby resulted in proactive acquiesce and the visible long-face leaders finally smiled, walked towards each other and firmly shook hands to the delight of the gathering dignitaries.
Again at the concluding session, the second hand shake, amidst the audience of mainly SAARC country officials, was greeted with applause.
There was relief over Pakistan's decision to withdraw objections to at least one of the three agreements that had been proposed, for energy cooperation, and all SAARC leaders signed it at the concluding ceremony.
Agreements on motor vehicle movement and railway linkages are expected to be cleared within a time frame of three months, and they will be signed by the regional Transport Ministers.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a meeting on the sidelines of the summit with Nawaz Sharif, while Afghanistan and India deliberately kept out of the bilateral meeting.
Diplomats were not expecting the Hasina-Sharif meeting, as Pakistan shocked Bangladesh after key senior official's reactive statements over war crimes trial issue soured the bilateral relations.
The bilateral relation with Bangladesh and Pakistan seems all time low for critiquing ongoing war crimes trial and challenging the legitimacy of the International Crimes Court (ICC).
Pakistan's national parliament and recently Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Provincial Assembly adopted separate resolution, while a senior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed resentment over the death penalty verdicts of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Matiur Rahman Nizami, Abdul Quader Molla and Quamruzzaman.
The secular government of Shiekh Hasina promptly snubbed Pakistan politician's resolutions and dubbed it as interference into the internal affairs of Bangladesh. Obviously such actions became a challenge in improving bilateral relations, since Pakistan recognised Bangladesh in 1974.
Pakistan has not formally responded to Bangladesh protest through diplomatic channels to explain its action, which has been another frustration for Bangladesh, said Foreign Office diplomat.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].