Aziz leaves for tour of SAARC nations today
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz leaves for Nepal today on the first leg of his tour of South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries in his capacity as chairman of the organisation.
“For Pakistan, our top priorities in SAARC are forward movement on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), poverty alleviation and energy cooperation,” Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told Daily Times.
In the first leg of his visit, the prime minister will go to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh from November1-4. He will visit India, Maldives and Sri Lanka after Eid. The prime minister will be accompanied by ministers, parliamentarians, businessmen and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry.
Mr Khan said Pakistan had facilitated many SAFTA meetings and discussed sensitive lists, compensation mechanisms and technical assistance for the least developed countries. “Pakistan’s proposal for a SAARC Energy Forum at the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting in July this year has been accepted and Pakistan would like to host a SAARC ministerial meeting on energy in early 2005,” he said.
Pakistan, as chairman of SAARC, has tried to secure an observer status for SAARC at the UN, he said. In a separate statement issued on Sunday, Mr Khan said Pakistan had encouraged closer collaboration between SAARC and other international and regional organisations. “Pakistan has also initiated discussions at the regional level on energy. Development of energy connectivity, transport infrastructure, and cooperation in information and communication technology are essential for regional cooperation,” said the statement.
The statement said that Prime Minister Aziz would use his visit to South Asian countries to reaffirm Pakistan’s commitment to regional cooperation. “There would also be an opportunity for interaction on Pakistan’s bilateral relations with each of the SAARC member countries,” it added. Mr Aziz will also call on the king of Nepal, the king of Bhutan and the president of Bangladesh.