The 19th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) to be held at Islamabad in November is now set to be postponed as Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan joined India to formally boycott the conclave.
After India announced its decision to boycott the summit on Tuesday, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan formally conveyed to Nepal, the current chair of Saarc, that they too would not attend the conclave. With four of the eight member-nations opting out, the summit is now set to be postponed and a formal announcement is likely to be made by Nepal. Two other members – Sri Lanka and Maldives – did not comment, while Nepal also maintained silence.
“It is for Nepal to make the formal announcement,” Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup, told journalists in New Delhi when he was asked on the fate of the summit. Officials in New Delhi argued that a summit cannot be held even if one member-nation opts out.
“In the current case, not just India but Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan have also written to Nepal that they are unable to participate, which means there is no option but to postpone it,” Swarup added.
Dhaka has conveyed to Kathmandu that the growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by “one country” has created an environment which was not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th Saarc summit in Islamabad in November.
Dhaka is upset with Islamabad ever since Pakistan started condemning the trial and execution of the radical Islamists, who were convicted of committing genocide during the 1971 liberation war that led to the creation of Bangladesh out of what was till then East Pakistan. Dhaka also suspects the role of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence in supporting the extremists in Bangladesh.
Bhutan factors in
Bhutan sent a communiqué to Nepal conveying its concern over “recent escalation of terrorism in the region”, which had “seriously compromised the environment for the successful holding” of the summit in Islamabad.
Kabul, too, tacitly blamed Pakistan for the increasing violence in Afghanistan. Kabul conveyed to Kathmandu that due to “increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan”, president Ashraf Ghani had to be in the country to discharge his responsibilities as the commander-in-chief of the Afghan armed forces.