NEW DELHI: India has hinted at sabotaging this year’s South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit or pulling away from the initiative altogether.
The issue of organising the SAARC summit was discussed in a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal’s premier KP Sharma Oli, who is in New Delhi on a three-day visit.
“The prime minister (Modi) mentioned that he very enthusiastically participated in the Kathmandu (SAARC) summit, but given the current state of play where there is cross-border terrorism — and this is a disruptive force in the region. It is difficult in such circumstances to proceed with such initiatives,” Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters, according to the India media.
SAARC summits are usually held biennially hosted by a member state in alphabetical order. The member state hosting the summit assumes the chair of the association.
The last summit was held in Kathmandu in 2014. The following meeting, expected to take place in Islamabad in 2016, had to be postponed after several members, led by India, pulled out on the pretext of ‘security’.
But after a deadly attack on an Indian army camp in Uri in occupied Kashmir on September 18, 2016, India stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.
Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to attend ths summit following India’s nudging.
Maldives and Sri Lanka are the seventh and eighth members of the initiative.
During his visit to Kathmandu last month, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had sought Oli’s support for convening the SAARC summit in Islamabad this year.
In a speech during a visit to the SAARC Secretariat, Abbasi had said Pakistan has always strived to make SAARC a vibrant vehicle for regional cooperation based on the principle of sovereign equality.
He also noted that SAARC had immense potential for strengthening the economies of the member countries and promoting collaboration in various areas of mutual significance.
He emphasised that the organisation needed to continue to strive in achieving the economic, cultural and social growth of the region. He stressed the need for an increased level of connectivity among the SAARC member states for a prosperous region.
Abbasi said that Pakistan, at all meetings of the SAARC, had advanced its belief that a secure and peaceful environment in South Asia was crucial for the advancement of region’s development and prosperity.
He said that as the host of the next SAARC summit, Pakistan looks forward to convening the summit at an early date and assured that the country would play a positive role in further strengthening regional cooperation.