Kathmandu: Nepal, which is holding on to the Chairmanship of the SAARC grouping since 2014, is "ready and eager to" handover the position to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said on Friday, hoping that New Delhi and Islamabad can sort out their differences through negotiations, keeping in mind the challenges facing the region.
The minister also assured India that Nepal will not allow its soil to be used against any of its neighbours and the Himalayan country will not participate in any great games. "Nepal is ready and eager to handover" the SAARC Chairmanship to Pakistan, Gyawali told a group of visiting Indian journalists at a briefing on 'Sagarmatha Sambaad' at the Nepalese Foreign Ministry here.
He said that India and Pakistan can sort out their differences through negotiations, keeping in mind the challenges facing the region.
In the last three years, India has been distancing itself from the SAARC, citing security challenge facing the region from terror networks based in Pakistan, which is also a member of the grouping.
Gyawali said the leaders of all SAARC countries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, have been invited and Nepal would be happy to host all the regional leaders so that they can have discussions amongst themselves on the challenges facing the region. "It will be a fantastic idea" for all SAARC leaders to be present at the Saagarmatha," he said.
The Sambaad (dialogue) is named after the world's tallest mountain Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) which is also a symbol of friendship, he added. The last SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu, which was attended by Prime Minister Modi.
The 2016 SAARC summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to "prevailing circumstances".
The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.
In December last, Prime Minister Modi said that India's efforts for greater collaboration among the SAARC countries have repeatedly been challenged with threats and acts of terrorism, in an oblique reference to Pakistan.
In a letter to the SAARC secretariat to mark the founding day of the bloc on December Prime Minister Modi said all countries in the region should take effective steps to defeat the scourge of terrorism and the forces which support it.
Such efforts, he said, would generate greater trust and confidence to build a stronger SAARC. Pakistan Prime Minister Khan, in his message on the 35th SAARC Charter Day, expressed the hope that the hiatus created in SAARC's continuous progression would be removed.
Khan said Pakistan believes the effective and result-oriented regional cooperation can only be achieved by adhering to the cardinal principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect as enshrined in the SAARC Charter.
SAARC summits are usually held biennially and hosted by member states in alphabetical order. The member state hosting the summit assumes the Chair of the Association.
On December 8, 1985 at the first SAARC Summit in Dhaka, the leaders of the seven South Asian states - the Maldives, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - signed a charter to establish the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Afghanistan became the eight SAARC member in 2007.