HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Nepal today officially decided to host the next summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Kathmandu. Though the date is yet to be fixed, officials said it would probably take place in February 2013.
Today’s meeting of the Council of Ministers, held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Singha Durbar, decided to host the 18th SAARC summit on a proposal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), said Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
“The Cabinet has decided to host the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu,” DPM Shrestha, who is also the government spokesperson, said. “The date will be fixed later.”
The decision comes a week before the 17th SAARC summit, which is being held in Addu Attol island of Maldives from November 10 to 11.
Shrestha said PM Baburam Bhattarai would formally propose to host the 18th summit during his address to the 17th summit in Maldives next week.
The final date of the summit is generally finalised at an inter-summit — participated by foreign ministers of SAARC member states — held before or after the previous summit, according to acting foreign secretary, Durga Prasad Bhattarai.
The SAARC Charter states that heads of state or government will meet once a year or more often as and when considered necessary by member states.
However, the summit is being convened in a gap of one-and-a-half years. “As per the Charter, we have to organise the next summit by November 2012. But, we could take two-to-three more months,” Shrestha said.
Since the inception of SAARC in 1985, Kathmandu has already hosted two summits — third in 1987 and 11th in 2002.
The Cabinet also endorsed an 11-member delegation led by PM Bhattarai for the 17th summit.
Hishila Yami, DPM and Foreign Minister Shrestha, acting foreign secretary Bhattarai, the SAARC division chief at MoFA, and the Chief of Protocol were among the delegates to take part in the summit.
This will be among the smallest Nepali delegations for the SAARC summit.
Former prime minister and CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal had gone to Thimphu, Bhutan, in 2010, to address the 15th summit, leading a 32-member delegation.
Though PM Bhattarai is scheduled to depart for Maldives on November 8, some of the delegates, including DPM Shrestha and foreign ministry officials, will depart earlier to cover preceding meetings.
According to DPM Shrestha, agreements related to formation of the SAARC seed bank, natural disaster reduction and setting up a common standard for foodstuffs will be the most likely achievements in the 17th summit to be held in Maldives.