India, Pakistan in race for hosting SAARC Environment Centre

During the ongoing meeting of 37th SAARC Council of Ministers in this Nepalese resort city, the two nations laid claims to host the headquarters of the newly proposed body.

PTI| Last Updated: Mar 17, 2016, 20:55 PM IST

Pokhara (Nepal): India and Pakistan are competing to host the SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Center, a new body to look into the environment and disaster related issues in the region.

During the ongoing meeting of 37th SAARC Council of Ministers in this Nepalese resort city, some 200 km west from Kathmandu, the two nations laid claims to host the headquarters of the newly proposed body.

India, Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh had expressed their desire to host the headquarters. During the several rounds of negotiations, Bhutan and Bangladesh withdrew their claims, leaving India and Pakistan in the race.

"What can be confirm is that other interested member states have dropped their claims over hosting the regional body," said two diplomats familiar to the development, adding that there can be breakthrough only when one of the countries backs off.

Climate change, degradation of environment and recurring various types of natural disasters have taken a toll in the region and member states are less prepared to combat these menace. With this realisation, the member states have agreed to set up such centre to meet the challenges in a professional manner, The Kathmandu Post reported.

Member states had agreed to merge SAARC Disaster Management Centre, SAARC Forest Management Centre, Coastal Area Management Centre and Environment Centre into environment and disaster management centre.

After programming committee meeting of joint secretary level, foreign secretary level meeting of standing committee level could not make headway, the issue has now landed at the ministerial level meeting.

Sources told the newspaper that the issue figured in a brief meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Relations Adviser to Pakistani Premier, Sartaj Aziz, today during a breakfast meet hosted by Nepal's Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa.