The senior officials of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will meet here this week for the first time to discuss a new date for the 19th summit of the regional grouping which was postponed by Pakistan last year after India and four others pulled out of it accusing Islamabad of not cooperating on combating terrorism.
The meet on February 1-2 to attend the Programming Committee will be the first meeting of the SAARC members since the postponement of the 19th summit that was supposed to take place in Islamabad November, a Nepalese Foreign Ministry official said.
Foreign Ministry sources said that the member states will discuss a number of issues, including the budget of the SAARC Secretariat and five regional centers of SAARC during the meeting.
The meeting will be attended by joint secretaries of the SAARC countries and the matter relating to rescheduling the next SAARC summit is likely to come up for discussion.
Nepal, current chair of the SAARC, had postponed the SAARC Summit until further notice after Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India requested to postpone the summit in Islamabad scheduled for November 9 and 10 last year, following escalation of tension between India and Pakistan.
India and others had blamed Pakistan for not creating a conducive environment and not cooperating on combating cross-border terrorism in South Asia for holding the SAARC Summit, charges rejected by Pakistan.
The decisions made by the programming committee will be forwarded to the Standing Committee for endorsement.
SAARC, a regional body founded in 1985 in South Asia, member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Last week, Pakistan Prime Ministers advisor on foreign policy Sartaj Aziz said his country remains committed to hosting the 19th SAARC Summit at Islamabad at the earliest so that the objectives of regional cooperation under the SAARC umbrella can be pursued more vigorously.
(With PTI inputs)