Big blow to Pakistan as SAARC Summit in Islamabad likely to be cancelled after India, 3 other countries boycott
In a big diplomatic snub to Pakistan, the 19th SAARC Summit, due to be held in Islamabad on November 9-10, stands cancelled. The official confirmation, however, is still awaited.
Notably, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan – four of the eight members of the South Asian grouping – have pulled out of the summit, citing incitement of terrorism in the region.
Nepal, the current Chair of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, has not made an official announcement of cancellation as yet. However, sources at SAARC Secretariat have told that the summit has been cancelled and it will now take place next year. Current SAARC Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa, who is currently in New York and will return in two days, will make the announcement soon.
Earlier, Pakistan tried to put a brave face and said it would go ahead and host the event in November. Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria was quoted as saying that it was learnt from the Indian External Affairs Ministry’s tweet that India is not going to participate in the SAARC Summit, a decision he called “unfortunate”. The spokesperson also said Pakistan is committed to regional peace and will continue working for the broader interest of the people of the region, according to the report.
Separately, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said India is making a propaganda to foil the conference, according to Pakistan Today newspaper.
With the SAARC process based on consensus, even if one member does not attend, the summit is automatically postponed or cancelled. In this case, half of the eight-nation regional bloc has decided to skip the event, forcing the event to be called off.
Sri Lanka has already said that the SAARC Summit would not be possible without India’s participation.
India on Tuesday announced that it was pulling out of the Islamabad summit in the wake of the September 18 cross-border terror attack on an Indian Army base in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir, which New Delhi has blamed on terrorists based in Pakistan.
The Uri attack came amid the dragging unrest and violence in Kashmir Valley that has left around 90 people dead since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8.
In a statement on Tuesday, India said increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of SAARC member-states “by one country” have created an environment that was not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC summit.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that India has conveyed to Nepal its decision not to attend the summit, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to go.
In its message to Nepal on Tuesday, Afghanistan said that because of “increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan, President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani with his responsibilities as the Commander in Chief will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the summit”.
In a similar message to Nepal, Bangladesh said: “The growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.”
“Bangladesh, as the initiator of the SAARC process, remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in a more congenial atmosphere,” the message said.
“In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad.”
Bhutan, in its message, cited “the recent escalation of terrorism in the region” as the reason for its non-participation.