SAARC chair Nepal seeks new venue for November summit: Report

India pulled out yesterday in response to the terror attack on army camp in Uri, Kashmir in which 18 soldiers lost their lives. Photograph:( AFP )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Sep 28, 2016, 07.12 AM (IST)

In a further embarrassment for Islamabad, the current SAARC Chair, Nepal has decided to move the annual summit out of Pakistan, Indian newspaper, The Hindu, reported.  

A senior diplomat source in Kathmandu told the Hindu that Nepal has decided to find an alternate venue for the summit. 

A formal announcement is expected soon. The move to shift the summit out of Islamabad was taken after four nations raised objections to the meet being held in Pakistan. 

“There is no question of holding the summit if four countries declare their unwillingness to participate. As the current SAARC Chair, Nepal has the responsibility of seeking a solution to such pre-summit disputes but under the current circumstances nothing much can be attempted. We will do the due formalities and will declare the summit of 2016 should be cancelled due to non-participation of member states,” the Kathmandu-based diplomatic source told The Hindu. 

According to reports, a high-level meeting was called by Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal in an effort to salvage the SAARC summit. 

Since India said last night that it would not be attending the SAARC summit in Pakistan in November, three more countries have followed suit. 

Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan have all conveyed to Nepal -- the current SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) chair -- that they too will not be attending. 

"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 Summit in Islamabad in November 2016," Bangladesh said in a statement.

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 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. In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad," it added.

Bhutan said it is committed to the SAARC process but the "recent escalation of terrorism in the region... has seriously compromised the environment for the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.

"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."

Afghanistan followed up with: "Due to the increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan, the President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani with his responsibilities as the Commander in Chief will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the Summit." 

The SAARC summit was of course over the minute India pulled out -- the by-laws governing the association insist on consensus and it can take absolutely no decision without all 8 countries agreeing. 

India had pulled out after 18 of its soldiers lost their lives in a terror attack on an army camp in Uri, Kashmir. India blames terrorists nurtured on Pakistani soil for the attack, and has been looking for ways to "respond" to the attack ever since. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting yesterday to review the Indus Waters treaty. India and Pakistan signed the treaty in 1960 and it has survived three wars between the two countries so far. 

The treaty gives Pakistan up to 80% of the waters of six rivers shared by the two countries, and is in India of often thought of as being too soft on Pakistan. Consequently, there have been numerous calls in India for the scrapping of the treaty. 

"Blood and water cannot flow together," Mr Modi is reported to have said at the meeting. 

Mr Modi has called another meeting tomorrow to review the Most Favoured Nation status India gave Pakistan in 1999 -- Pakistan does not give the same back to India -- and will for that be meeting with officials from the foreign and commerce ministries.