19th SAARC Summit called off after India, 3 more nations pull out
Nepalese media in the evening reported that the 19th SAARC summit which was to be held in Islamabad this November has been called off. Earlier Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Bhutan took the stand that the atmosphere in the Indian subcontinent was not conducive for holding SAARC talks in Islamabad. This means that the Islamabad summit is literally called off since, according to new rules, the presence of all SAARC nations is compulsory to hold a summit.
This follows a day after the MEA announced that India will not attend the 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad in November this year. In a statement, it said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not be attending the summit, adding that “regional cooperation and terrorism do not go together”.
The statement added: “Increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of member states by one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad”.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Bhutan are said to have written on Tuesday to SAARC chair Nepal expressing their apprehensions about the proposed summit in Islamabad. Nepal is also expected to pull out of the summit.
In a letter to SAARC chair 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. In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad.”
Similarly, Bhutan has expressed its concern in a letter to Nepal over the recent escalation of terrorism in the region, which, it says, seriously compromises the environment for the successful holding of the November SAARC Summit in Islamabad.
Afghanistan said in a statement that “due to increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan, H.E. the 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”.
Reacting to the development, a Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson said Pakistan remained committed to peace and regional cooperation. He added: “While we have not received any official communication in this regard, the Indian announcement is unfortunate… We will continue to work to that end in the larger interest of the people in this region.”