India likely to sit out of SAARC summit again

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New Delhi | Published: April 9, 2018 4:56:06 PM

India decided not to participate in the 2016 SAARC which was to be held in Pakistan, after an Indian Army camp in Uri was attacked by terrorists. India suffered the loss of 19 soldiers. It had then sent out a stern message and had raised diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

India refused to participate in the 19th SAARC summit in Pakistan in 2016, due to the terror attack in Uri. (Reuters)

The upcoming SAARC summit is unlikely to see India’s participation. News reports indicated that India will pull out of 2018 SAARC summit that is to be hosted by Pakistan. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told the media, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had very enthusiastically participated in the SAARC summit held at Kathmandu, however, given the current situation, where cross-border terrorism is destabilising the region, it was difficult to proceed with such initiatives.

The question of India’s participation in SAARC summit was also raised in a discussion during the ongoing visit of Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli’s three day visit to India. The previous SAARC summit was held in Kathmandu in Nepal in 2014.

India decided not to participate in the 2016 SAARC which was to be held in Pakistan, after an Indian Army camp in Uri was attacked by terrorists. India suffered the loss of 19 soldiers. It had then sent out a stern message and had raised diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. India had said, “the prevailing circumstances do not permit India to continue its participation in the summit”. The SAARC summit of 2016 was finally cancelled as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Maldives followed India’s decision to boycott the summit.

Reports in Pakistani media are suggesting that Pakistan is seeking to strengthen SAARC for regional development by hosting this summit. It was also reported that Saleem Mandviwalla, Deputy Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan is interacting with Mohammad Anas, Acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka and is impressing on him that Pakistan wishes to host the SAARC summit this year. Pakistani Prime Minister Abbasi had also expressed the same wish last year during his visit to Nepal.

Pakistan is aggressively seeking the support of the other South Asian nations to hold the SAARC summit in Islamabad this year. Though media reports in Pakistan claim that Nepal and Sri Lanka have agreed to Pakistan’s request, it seems unlikely that India would agree to Pakistan’s demand. The protocol of the SAARC summit dictates that the summits be held as per member’s alphabetical order. The 20th SAARC summit was actually to be held in Sri Lanka this year.

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