Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan join India in withdrawing from SAARC summit

Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan join India in withdrawing from SAARC summit in Pakistan

International

Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan on Wednesday pulled out of a regional summit of South Asian leaders in Pakistan, a day after India said it would boycott the event over a deadly attack on a military base.

“There is no question of holding the summit if four countries declare their unwillingness to participate. As the current SAARC Chair, Nepal has the responsibility of seeking a solution to such pre-summit disputes but under the current circumstances nothing much can be attempted. We will do the due formalities and will declare the summit of 2016 should be cancelled due to non-participation of member states,” said a Kathmandu-based diplomatic source.

The atmospherics for the cancellation began building up after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan sent formal official communications to Kathmandu on September 27 almost immediately after India expressed inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan after the September 18 attack on the military base in Uri.

Like India that cited “cross-border terrorist attacks in the region” as a reason for boycotting the summit, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan too expressed concern about the same issue in their official notes to Kathmandu.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry called India’s move “unfortunate” and said it remained committed to peace and regional cooperation. In a statement, it accused India of meddling in Pakistan’s internal matters.

India’s decision to cancel the trip is the latest attempt by India to try to pressure Pakistan diplomatically. India has said it will respond to the Kashmir attack but experts say it is short of military options because of the risk of escalation.

The signal cannot be sent that we are rewarding Pakistani bad behaviour by allowing our prime minister to go to their country even for a multilateral meeting,” said an India Congress Party leader, Shashi Tharoor, standing by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s decision.

India on Monday began a campaign to isolate Pakistan at the United Nations, and Modi told officials India should exploit more of the water from three rivers that flow into its neighbour, potentially cutting water levels downstream.

“It’s part of a larger policy of isolation of Pakistan,” said India’s former foreign secretary, Lalit Man Singh. “India has done that internationally by raising the issue of Pakistan and its links with terrorism at the U.N., at the G20, at the BRICS Summit.”

India says Pakistani militants sneaked across the de facto border that separates the countries and killed 18 soldiers on September 18, the biggest loss of life for Indian security forces in the region for 14 years.

Pakistan rejects the accusation and says India should conduct a proper investigation before it apportions blame.

Divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, the nuclear flashpoint of Kashmir lies at the heart of the countries’ rivalry. India also faces an insurgency against its rule in the portion it controls, its only Muslim-majority state.

By – Dhriti Sharma

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