SAARC summit falls victim to India obduracy

29 Sep

 

By Shafqat Ali

ISLAMABAD – An upcoming Saarc summit has fallen victim to Pak-India tension, deepening the shadows of conflict in a region which has the highest concentration of world’s poor and where inter-state tussles have already caused much damage.

The key summit was to be held in Islamabad from November 9 to 11 and until a few weeks ago, Pakistan was expecting Indian Premier Narendra Modi to attend it.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz confirmed postponement of the summit yesterday, a day after India announced its boycott decision.

At the centre of the ongoing row is the old-running dispute of Kashmir, where Indian forces have intensified repression over the past three months and where 18 Indian soldiers were killed in a recent attack.

India blamed the Uri base attack on “militants from Pakistan” even before it started investigation. Pakistan rejected the allegations, demanding an international probe into the incident and alleging New Delhi of trying to divert attention from occupied Kashmir.

Announcing Modi’s decision, India’s external affairs ministry said there were other countries too that had expressed reservations about participating in the 19th Saarc summit.

“India has conveyed to current Saarc Chair Nepal that increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in internal affairs of member states by one country (Pakistan) have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the summit,” it said.

Soon after, Bangladesh said it was also pulling out. Afghanistan and Bhutan followed suit. Their decision had only a symbolic value though – because, as per rules, if one state decides not to participate in the summit, it is postponed anyway.

Adviser Sartaj Aziz pointed out that it was not for the first time as India had earlier also caused the summit to be postponed four times, as he dubbed the latest Indian boycott as another attempt to deflect world attention from atrocities in India-held Kashmir (IHK).

He said the summit – despite postponement – had not been officially cancelled. Whenever the conference takes place, it will be held in Pakistan, Aziz said.

However, reports from Nepal suggested the Chair was seeking changing the venue to make it possible to hold the moot somewhere else later.

Things between India and Pakistan started going  wrong three months ago after Indian forces resorted to use of brutal force against Kashmiris protesting against the killing of a young freedom fighter.

Meeting its historic and diplomatic responsibility towards Kashmir state, Pakistan raised the voice for Kashmiris – to the annoyance of India which blamed Pakistan of interfering in its internal affairs and accusing it of fanning cross-border terrorism, especially after Uri attack.

Islamabad denies any involvement in attacks in India insisting it is itself is a victim of terrorism. It has also launched a diplomatic campaign, urging the world to stop India from ‘perpetrating terrorism’ on its soil.

The two countries also clashed at the recently concluded UN General Assembly session and India asked the world to isolate Pakistan, terming it a terrorist state.

Failing to intimidate the nuclear neighbour through threats of military action, PM Modi a few days ago challenged Pakistan to compete with it in a ‘war on poverty’. But the very next day he threaten it with a water war, signalling that India could unilaterally revoke the Indus Water Treaty.

Foreign Office spokesman Nafeez Zakariya yesterday said, “India has a track record of impeding Saarc process.” He said Indian atrocities had attracted world attention and called the boycott a ‘desperate act’, .

“The major thrust of Saarc activities is to uplift the socio-economic conditions of people of South Asia… India’s negative attitude has had a direct bearing on the welfare and betterment in this region, which is highly regrettable,” he said.

As most in the Indian media dubbed the support of three other countries on Saarc moot boycott a diplomatic victory, many on Pakistani side termed it a ‘no big deal’. Saner voices on both sides however expressed regret on losing a golden chance for normalisation and harming a platform which embodies hope for regional collaboration.

Indian analyst G Pramod Kumar said the boycott would have made some sense “had the countries that supported India been Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka”, instead of those which “eat out of India’s hands”.

Former Ambassador Fauzia Nasreen said India had always delayed the dialogue process and used cheap tactics to defame Pakistan. “India wants to convince the major world powers about its seriousness for negotiations, but actually it halts any such efforts,” she said.

Defence analyst Maj-Gen (r) Mohammed Farooq said, “Pakistan should convince the international community about mischievous attitude of the Indian leadership. Pakistan is a nuclear power and it will not submit to Indian nefarious designs.”

 

Published in The Nation newspaper on 29-Sep-2016

 

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