Kathmandu, Nov 21: Leaders of SAARC countries will discuss issues ranging from counter terrorism and peace and security in the region to agriculture and rural development along with poverty alleviation, food security and health, at the upcoming 18th SAARC summit in Nepal.
Representatives from the eight member countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan,and Sri Lanka, along with observers from nine other nations will take part in the meet, Nepal's Foreign Minister Mahendra Pandey told reporters today on the eve of the summit.
The summit will review progress made in implementing decisions taken during the previous SAARC summit and deliberate on reports prepared by different meetings held after the previous summit. Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will hold bilateral talks with all SAARC heads of state and government, while all SAARC dignitaries will also call on President Ram Baran Yadav on the last day of the summit.
Preparations for the summit are in the final stages with Koirala today instructing officials to ensure fool-proof security to the visiting dignitaries. A Kathmandu Declaration will also be announced at the conclusion of the conclave, Pandey said. Kathmandu is hosting the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for the third time in the nearly three-decade history of the bloc since its establishment in 1985.
The summit will also benefit Nepal at a time when the country is moving towards concluding the peace process and drafting a new constitution as this will provide the opportunity to share views and exchange ideas with the SAARC leaders, Pandey said. It is a very significant event for Nepal as it will not only help to strengthen regional cooperation and forge understanding among SAARC nations, but will also help promote Nepal's tourism sector, he said.
"SAARC summit is the focal point at this moment and all the delegates are coming from all eight countries to the conclave and if any dignitary wants to visit our religious site or tourist destination we are ready to make all necessary arrangements for that as it will also promote our tourism business," Pandey said in a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed trip to religious sites in Janakpur, Lumbini and Muktinath during his visit.
Kathmandu hosted the SAARC summit for the first time in 1987 under the rule of absolute monarchy, while it hosted the conclave for the second time in 2002 under constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy, and for the third time now the country is hosting the conclave under a democratic republican system, Pandey said.