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Summit Sabotage: India mulls boycott of SAARC event

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conveyed to his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli about India’s firm opposition to the staging of the SAARC Summit by Islamabad. This seems to be the latest move in India’s campaign to separate Pakistan from the South Asian region.

“It is difficult to proceed with such initiatives in the current circumstances,” he is believed to have told Oli when the latter raised the subject during their bilateral talks on Friday. This was disclosed by Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale at a media briefing in New Delhi.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had recently visited Nepal, the current chair of SAARC, and expressed his country’s keenness to host the summit of the eight-nation grouping, which was originally scheduled to be held in November 2016. India had then refused to attend the summit. Subsequently, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka also expressed their inability to attend it, leading to its postponement.

South Asia show that the member states are backing out of India’s sphere of influence. Nepal has recently undergone elections with a leftist victory that have moved closer to China irking India. While Sri Lanka has also shown a flight away from Indian orbit by moving closer to China.

According to the SAARC Charter, the summits of the grouping must be attended by the heads of state or Government of all the member nations. Oli told Modi that his country was looking forward to hosting the BIMSTEC Summit later this year. Citing old Indian rhetoric of continuing support to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, India said on Saturday it was difficult to proceed with the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) initiative under current circumstances.

The issue of organizing the SAARC Summit came up for discussion during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modiand his Nepalese counterpart 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.

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The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after an alleged Kashmiri guerilla attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up on the diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Nineteen Indian soldiers died in the attack reportedly.

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.

Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi has conveyed to his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli India’s firm opposition to the staging of the SAARC Summit by Islamabad. This seems to be the latest move in India’s campaign to separate Pakistan from the South Asian region.

SAARC summit boycotts have largely been an Indian tool of belligerence. The much touted 2016 SAARC summit boycott is a recent sample of India’s venting of rage against members; New Delhi has forced postponements of SAARC Summits on four occasions: 1991 (6th Summit in Colombo) 1999 (11th Summit in Katmandu), 2013 (12th Summit in Islamabad) and 2005 (13th Summit in Dhaka).

On March 18 2018, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Foreign Policy Chief Vijay Chauthaiwale said that India should strive for South Asian economic integration without Pakistan. He said that in an Indian Foundation Conference.

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The BJP leader was of the opinion that the ruling party of the Hindu-majority country was under no ideological compulsion to mend ways with its regional rival and neighbor. Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary in India, responded by saying that keeping Pakistan out of South Asian integration plans would amount to accepting defeat that “we don’t know how to deal with a neighbor”.

Chauthaiwale also mentioned about India giving more emphasis on BIMSTEC, a grouping of Bay of Bengal countries, and sub-regional initiatives such as BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal) connectivity plans.

However, recent events in South Asia show that the member states are backing out of India’s sphere of influence. Nepal has recently undergone elections with a leftist victory that have moved closer to China irking India. While Sri Lanka has also shown a flight away from Indian orbit by moving closer to China. Maldives has, too, shown an independent spike smashing Indian commands. Indian policy of hegemony seems to be backfiring with the South Asian region being driven into two opposing blocs.

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