Bringing up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, the Indian government recently said that it is unable to participate in the November SAARC summit in Islamabad in the prevailing circumstances. This decision on cancelling Indian participation was taken even as discussions continued about steps such as reviewing the MFN status for Pakistan following the Uri attack.
In a press release, the Ministry of External Affairs said, “India has conveyed to current SAARC chair Nepal that 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 in November 2016. In the prevailing circumstances, the Government of India is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad,”
Sources also state that Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan are also likely to stay away from the Islamabad summit. This is the first time that India has cancelled participation in the regional group’s summit meeting because of actions that it blames on Pakistan-based elements. This tough step had been under consideration since the Uri attack, the second such cross border strike in nine months after the January 2 Pathankot airbase strike. India had earlier accepted Pakistan’s invitation for the summit in March during a ministerial meeting held in Kathmandu.
Experts said India’s cancellation might handicap economic integration in South Asia. “It is not possible to run economic integration in South Asia without the two biggest economies working together. It is sad if SAARC is euthanised,” said Sheel Kant Sharma, former Secretary General of SAARC (2007-2011).