Four countries not to attend SAARC Summit

Kathmandu, September 28

A summit of South Asian leaders set for November in Islamabad may be called off, as several countries have decided not to attend amid rising tension between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, officials said today.

SAARC Chair Nepal confirmed that it received letters from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India regarding their inability to attend the next South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit to be held in Islamabad in November.

Officiating Foreign Secretary Jhabindra Aryal told The Himalayan Times that the messages were received via the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu. Embassy of India in Nepal also made a separate correspondence regarding this. The Ministry of External Affairs of India had conveyed yesterday to SAARC Chair Nepal about India’s inability to attend the Islamabad summit slated for November 9 and 10 amidst increased cross-border terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.

It’s learnt that the SAARC Secretariat has informed all member-states, including host Pakistan, about the notice of the four countries regarding their inability to attend the meeting.

Aryal said that as the chair of the regional bloc, Nepal believed that SAARC process should move smoothly, and the summit be held on time.

A foreign ministry official said it was up to the host country, Pakistan, whether to call off the summit now or persuade the four member-states to hold the jamboree on schedule.

SAARC has eight member-states: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. As per its charter, all the members have to attend summit, in which heads of state/government of the eight countries take part. If any member is absent, the regional jamboree can’t take place. The PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Rishi Raj Adhikari said consultation was under way with the member-states if the summit could be held on time. He added that as SAARC chair, Nepal would take a position on the matter after due consultation with the member-states.

He claimed that the summit could still be held on schedule if the ‘matters between the concerned member-states are resolved’.