C. P. Gajurel, senior Politburo member of Nepal’s Maoists,
There are question marks over Nepal’s participation at the 15th SAARC summit which Colombo is hosting as a very prestigious event. The Maoists are locked in a tussle for power in the landlocked Himalayan and according to reports from Kathmandu, have asked caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to call off his planned visit to Sri Lanka.

“Only a new government should represent the country (Nepal) at the Saarc summit failing which the summit should be called off”, Maoist leader CP Gajurel, who is also in-charge of the party’s foreign affairs cell, said in Kathmandu. He even moved the intervention of the Constituent Assembly with a request to stop Koirala from gong to Colombo.

Though the Nepali political scene is very fluid, it is possible that Maoists and the Nepal Congress and other parties would find a way out of the impasse and elect a new Prime Minister. Much depends on how the Maoists make their moves since they are pitted against Nepali Congress, Terai leaders and mainstream Communist leaders who are on the same wave length.

The Nepali impasse is, however, unlikely to result in a postponement of the Colombo summit. That is because of indications that in case, Koirala fails to get the green signal, he may request President Rambaran Yadav to represent Nepal at the summit. This was not for the first time that SAARC was lost in a dilemma over who should represent a country. In the past, General Zia-ul-Haq, who was calling the shots as the President of the country, sent his Prime Minister Juenjo to the Bangalore summit in the eighties to the annoyance of his hosts.

South Asia has evolved an unwritten convention has been that the Head of the Government would attend the summit. The underlying idea is that the representation at the summit level should be at such a level that it would facilitate decisions and implementation.

Interestingly, participation at the political executive level and 14 summits later, the South Asia grouping continues to remain a talking shop. It continues to bring forth the question ‘How useful is SAARC’ but without any one willing to offer a ready answer or a labored reply.

Even the much talked about ‘visa on arrival’ facility has not become universal. Trade both bilateral and intra-regional is still in low volumes, notwithstanding periodical announcements of MFN, preferential trade, counter trade and zero duty imports and what have you. Barrier free movement across borders and identification of regional transport connectivity are still mirages for SAARC which wants to emulate EU and ASEAN

Terrorism To Dominate Colombo Agenda

Expectedly terror is going to dominate the agenda at the two-day Colombo summit with India, reeling under the impact of blasts in Kabul, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, expect to push for convention on Mutual Assistance in criminal matters.

The convention would provide a broad framework for member countries to cooperate and assist in the investigation and prosecution of crime. It expects member countries to grant to each other the ‘widest possible’ measure of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, according to the draft convention which received the Indian cabinet’s approval this past week.

Even if the new convention sees the light of the day how effective it would be in the absence of ratification by member nations. As happened in respect of the regional anti-terrorism convention which was signed in 1987.

The SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism provides for sharing of information on and dealing with terrorist offences based on well-established principles of international law. It made it clear abundantly that ‘contracting States’ shall cooperate among themselves to the extent permitted by their national laws. The convention paved the way for setting up by 1990 in Colombo the Saarc Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk. It has a lofty ideal, nay charter; collate, analyse and disseminate information about terrorist incidences, tactics, strategies and methods.

This anti-terrorism convention is what makes Saarc invite Sarcasm. Member countries are still to enter into bilateral extradition agreements. Says Mahendra Lama, Vice Chancellor of University of Sikkim: “The 15th Saarc summit will remain a meaningless regional ritual as long as bilaterals on terrorism remain brushed under the carpet”.

Security Cover For PM Singh

India is not taking any chances with the security of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his stay in Colombo. As reported in the Asian Tribune a while ago, the security arrangements were tied up during the visit of national security advisor M K Narayanan and foreign secretary Menon.

Special Protection Group (SPG) which ensures proximity security to Indian PMs at home and aboard and National Security Guards (NSG) commandos will be on duty in Colombo. A 100-strong contingent of this special force has been airlifted to the Lankan capital, it is said here in Delhi. The Indian Navy has deployed two of its frontline warships for keeping a strict vigil on the Lanka coastal waters, while the coast guard has stepped up patrolling the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar while the Indian Air Force (IAF) has kept its bases in South India on an operational alert.

– Asian Tribune –