SAARC chair Nepal today said that it has received communications from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India informing their decision to not participate in the summit in Islamabad and urged for ‘a conducive environment’ to ensure the participation of all members.
“The government of Nepal has received communications from the SAARC Secretariat transmitting the diplomatic notes from four SAARC member states namely, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India in which they have conveyed their inability to participate in the 19th SAARC summit scheduled for November 9 and 10, 2016 in Islamabad stating that current regional environment is not conducive to the successful holding of the Summit. We have taken this development seriously,” a statement by Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
“As the current chair of SAARC, the government of Nepal strongly urges that a conducive environment be created soon to ensure the participation of all member states in the 19th SAARC summit in line with the spirit of the SAARC Charter,” it added.
In a statement on Tuesday, India had said that increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of SAARC member-states "by one country" have created an environment that was not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC summit.
Following India’s lead, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan also pulled out of the meet, following which New Delhi said that the SAARC Summit now has to be postponed.
However, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said a formal announcement to this effect will be made by Nepal, the current Chair of the SAARC.
The current rule is that if any one head of State or Government decides not to participate in the SAARC Summit, it has to be postponed. All eight Heads of SAARC countries must be present for the Summit, Swarup said, adding if any one country decides not to participate, the Summit has to be postponed.
"In the current case, not just India but Bangladesh Bhutan and Afghanistan have also written to current Chair of SAARC, Nepal that they are unable to participate in the SAARC Summit, which means there is no option but to postpone it," the Spokesperson said.
The countries have pulled out of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November, indirectly blaming Pakistan for creating an environment which is not right for the successful holding of the meet.
In the backdrop of the heightened tension with Pakistan over Uri terror attack in which 18 jawans were killed, India had announced late last night its decision to not participate in Summit, citing increased "cross-border" attacks.
Vikas Swarup said that India has conveyed to Nepal its decision not to attend the summit, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to go.
"India remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in an atmosphere free of terror.
"In the prevailing circumstances, the Government of India is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad," he said in the statement.
Pakistan has termed the boycott decision as "unfortunate".
Following suit, Afghanistan also said that it would not attend the meet in Islamabad.
"Due to increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan, President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani with his responsibilities as the Commander in Chief will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the summit," sources quoted Kabul as saying in a message to Saarc chair Nepal on Tuesday.
In a similar message to Nepal, Bangladesh on Tuesday said: "The growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th Saarc (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) Summit in Islamabad in November 2016."
"Bangladesh, as the initiator of the Saarc process, remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in a more congenial atmosphere," the message said.
"In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad."
In its message to Nepal, Bhutan, while reaffirming its strong commitment to the Saarc process and strengthening of regional cooperation, noted that "the concern of the Royal Government of Bhutan on the recent escalation of terrorism in the region, which has seriously compromised the environment for the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016", it is learned.
"Further, the Royal Government of Bhutan shares the concerns of some of the member countries of Saarc on the deterioration of regional peace and security due to terrorism and joins them in conveying our inability to participate in the Saarc Summit, under the current circumstances," the message from Thimpu on Tuesday said.
Sri Lanka, it is learned, has said that the event would not be possible without India's participation.