SAARC summit: Toss-up between Nepal, Bhutan as host likely

March 24th, 2009 - 12:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, March 24 (IANS) There is likely to be a toss-up between Nepal and Bhutan if the Maldives finally declines to host the 16th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Bhutan, which has never hosted a SAARC summit, has made a formal offer. But visiting SAARC Secretary General Sheel Kant Sharma Monday informed Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that the summit is likely to be held in Nepal, New Age newspaper said quoting the prime minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad.

Bhutan has offered to play the host in March/April next year if the Maldives declines to hold the summit this October.

The summit rotates by alphabetical order. It is likely to be deferred until at least the first quarter of 2010 as the Maldives has expressed its inability to arrange the meet before October 2009, and does not want to do it after that this year, as it will impact the country’s economic mainstay - tourism.

The summit of the eight-nation SAARC grouping was originally scheduled to be held in the Maldives in September this year as decided at the 15th SAARC Summit in Sri Lanka in 2008.

After the Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told a meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers in Colombo recently of its inability to arrange the summit, a postponement was sought to October. But the minister said it would be peak tourism season for the Maldives.

The Maldives had also expressed its inability to arrange the 15th SAARC Summit in 2008 because of its general elections and Sri Lanka then came forward to host the summit which coincided with 60 years of its independence.

The newspaper Tuesday said the Maldives is yet to decline to host the gathering.

Bhutan March 13 contacted the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu offering to host the 16th summit in the spring of 2010.

Before giving the nod to Bhutan, the SAARC secretariat must consult with other member countries.

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