India to not participate in regional summit in Pakistan
NEW DELHI: New Delhi will not participate in a meeting of South Asian nations to be held in Islamabad in November, its foreign ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.
The statement didn't name Pakistan but tensions between the neighbors and arch-rivals have been high since a militant attack on an army base in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir killed 18 Indian soldiers.
The ministry said it has written to Nepal, the current chair of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, that "increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of Member States by one country" have created an environment that is "not conducive" for a successful summit.
Indian investigators say maps, weapons and other evidence indicated that the attackers were from Jaish-e-Mohammed, an outlawed militant group based in Pakistan. Pakistan denies the charges.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to attend the 8-nation summit in the Pakistani capital. Other member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said while Islamabad had not received any official communication, the Indian announcement was unfortunate. Pakistan, he said, remained committed to peace and regional cooperation.
"As far as the excuse used by India, the world knows that it is India that has been perpetrating and financing terrorism in Pakistan," Zakaria said.
The SAARC was founded in 1985 to promote economic cooperation in the region, but Indo-Pakistan tensions have blocked its progress.
Since the attack on the base in Indian Kashmir's Uri town top Indian officials, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have said they will work to isolate Pakistan internationally, accusing that country of trying to destabilize Asia by exporting terrorism.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents and pushing them into the Indian portion of Kashmir to attack government forces and other targets. Pakistan says it provides only political and diplomatic support to insurgents who have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989.