India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan on the issue of terrorism got a boost on Wednesday with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan also deciding to skip the Saarc Summit in Islamabad in November, setting the stage for the postponement of the meet. In a synchronised effort, India and the three other countries informed the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC)secretariat heir leaders would be unable to attend the summit for almost similar reasons. For India, this marked a victory as half of the grouping’s eight members singled out cross-border terror and interference in the internal affairs of members by “one country” – a clear reference to Pakistan.
The move by the four countries means the summit cannot go ahead as the SAARC Charter states all decisions must be made by unanimity. The absence of even one member state leads to the automatic postponement or cancellation of a summit.
• India and the three other SAARC states have clearly linked regional cooperation to an atmosphere free of terror – meaning Pakistan should stop sponsoring terrorism that is destabilising the region and stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. India’s announcement about skipping the Saarc summit suggested that it wants to extend the issue of an “atmosphere free of terror” from bilateral ties to the entire South Asian region.
• New Delhi will also seek help from other members of the BIMSTEC grouping – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka – on terror. The leaders of the grouping will meet in Goa in October.