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Pak blocks SAARC pacts on connectivity, disaster response

By Ajay Kaul
April 26, 2010 16:31 IST
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Pakistan has played a spoiler in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation's efforts to firm up agreements on developing intra-regional connectivity and establishing a common response to disasters.

A Motor Vehicles Agreement, providing for connectivity between Kabul and Dhaka criss-crossing the region, and a pact on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, were scheduled to be signed during the upcoming 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu on April 28-29.

However, Pakistan has refused to come on board even though it had given its consent earlier, sources said.

SAARC comprises India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives.

The Summit, to be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders of the other seven countries, will have climate change as the main theme and a convention is expected to be signed on cooperation in the protection of environment.

The Summit will also unveil rules and regulations for the ambitious SAARC University which is in the process of being set up in Delhi.

During negotiations, Pakistan had given its consent to the agreement on connectivity and a draft had been proposed accordingly.

However, Pakistan surprised other member countries just before the upcoming Summit, when it changed its mind and said it did not want to associate with the pact, the sources said.

The agreement was being prepared in pursuance of the declaration of the last Summit which said, "The Heads of State or Government recognised the importance of connectivity for realising the objectives of SAARC."

"They accordingly directed the SAARC mechanisms to continue to embody in their programmes and projects a strong focus on better connectivity, not only within South Asia, but also between the region and the rest of the world.

"They further stressed the necessity of fast-tracking projects for improving intra-regional connectivity and facilitating economic, social and people-to-people contacts."

Pakistan made a similar about-turn on the proposed agreement on response to disasters. The agreement proposed that the member countries would pool in their resources to meet exigencies in any of the member countries.

Sources said Pakistan had no objections during the preparation of the text of the agreement, but after it was finalised for signing, it said it needs 'further consideration'.

On the other hand, Bangladesh had some objections to certain aspects of the agreement but it later withdrew them.

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Ajay Kaul In Thimphu
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