NEW DELHI: The Indian government has signaled that it may disrupt this year’s SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit or even pull out completely.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepalese Prime Minister Sharma Oli discussed the issue during the latter’s three-day visit to the Indian capital.
According to the Times of India, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters that “the prime minister [Modi] mentioned that he very enthusiastically participated in the Kathmandu (SAARC) summit, but given the current state of affairs where there is cross-border terrorism — it would difficult [for India] to proceed with such initiatives”.
The SAARC summit, which is held biennially, was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in 2016 but was postponed after Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan, under pressure from India, refused to participate in the event citing ‘security’ concerns. As such, the last SAARC summit was held in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu in 2014.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi elicited support from Nepalese Prime Minister Sharma Oli during the former’s visit to Kathmandu last month. He had said that Pakistan viewed SAARC as a vehicle for boosting regional cooperation on the principle of sovereign equality and for improving the economies of members states. He had reiterated the stance that a secure and stable South Asia was necessary in order to promote cultural, social and economic connectivity.
SAARC is composed of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.