New Delhi: So, the inevitable has happened. The SAARC Summit that was set to be hosted in Pakistani capital Islamabad has finally been cancelled as India – Pakistan mistrust grows in the wake of Uri terrorist attack.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had kept the media guessing about his intent to travel to Pakistan amidst heightened tension between the two neighbors, announced that he will not go there. Following Prime Minister’s announcement in this regard, the isolation of Pakistan in the region looked complete.
Following India’s announcement several nations in the region announced that they will not attend the planned summit of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The list seems to be growing rather fast. The newest member of the alliance Afghanistan was first to announce the pullout. It was followed closely by Bangladesh and Bhutan.
An announcement by Afghan government said, “Due to 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”.
If that was not enough, Bangladesh also made it plainly clear that it will not attend the summit. In a similar message to Nepal, Bangladesh on Tuesday 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 (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.” It went on to add, “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”. “In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad.”
Later one more nation followed. In its message to Nepal, Bhutan, while reaffirming its strong commitment to the Saarc process and strengthening of regional cooperation, noted that “the concern of the Royal Government of Bhutan on the recent escalation of terrorism in the region, which has seriously compromised the environment for the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016”, it is learned. “Further, the Royal Government of Bhutan shares the concerns of some of the member countries of Saarc on the deterioration of regional peace and security due to terrorism and joins them in conveying our inability to participate in the Saarc Summit, under the current circumstances,” the message from Thimpu on Tuesday said.
On the other hand Sri Lanka, it is learned, has said that the event would not be possible without India’s participation. India on Tuesday announced that it was pulling out of the Islamabad summit after the September 18 cross-border terror attack on an Indian Army base in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 18 soldiers. The attack came amid large-scale violence in Kashmir Valley that left around 90 people dead in the wake of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8.
In the meantime top Indian diplomat, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that India has conveyed to current Saarc chair Nepal its decision not to attend the summit, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to go. “India remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in an atmosphere free of terror. In the prevailing circumstances, the Government of India is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad,” he said in the statement. Pakistan has termed the boycott decision as “unfortunate”.
On the other hand US State Department expressed disappointment over cancellation of the SAARC Summit. “Well, I mean, clearly we’ve talked about that before is, while we’ve seen Pakistan make progress on some of the terrorist groups operating within its own borders and carrying out attacks within Pakistan’s borders, that we continue to put pressure on Pakistan to respond to those groups who are, quote/unquote, ‘seeking safe haven on Pakistan’s borders’, that – who are intent on carrying out attacks elsewhere in the region,” US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said in the daily press briefing in Washington on Tuesday. The US is one of the nine observer members of Saarc, the others being Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar and South Korea.