India hints at withdrawing from SAARC

New Delhi: Citing continuing support to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, India said today it was difficult to proceed with the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) initiative under current circumstances.

The issue of organising the SAARC Summit came up for discussion during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli, who is in India 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,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters.

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 SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu, which was attended by Modi.

The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad.

But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Nineteen Indian soldiers died in the attack.

The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.

Maldives and Sri Lanka are the seventh and eighth members of the initiative.

During his visit to Kathmandu last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi sought Oli’s support for convening the SAARC Summit in Islamabad.

Abbasi has also urged Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena “to play his role for early convening of the summit”.

“While India is very supportive of all regional connectivity and regional cooperation issues, the views expressed by the prime minister (Modi) was Prime Minister Oil was well aware of the circumstances,” Gokhale said.

The foreign secretary said the Nepalese prime minister told Modi he was looking forward to host the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Summit this year. BIMSTEC excludes Pakistan.

Oli also gave a “positive reference” to the sub-regional Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) initiative, Gokhale said. (PTI)


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