The SAARC summit of 2016 will be cancelled, a senior diplomatic source in Kathmandu has confirmed to The Hindu .
The confirmation from Nepal, the current SAARC Chair, came hours after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan decided, like India, to stay away from the summit scheduled for November in Islamabad.
“There is no question of holding the summit if four countries declare their unwillingness to participate. Nepal has the responsibility of seeking a solution to such pre-summit disputes but under the current circumstances nothing can be attempted. We will do the due formalities and declare the summit cancelled due to non-participation of member states,” said the source.
The source said Nepal had not taken any decision as it is the SAARC Chair and will have to follow proper official procedure before announcing the cancellation.
“We wish a diplomatic breakthrough could be found with a possible change of venue but no one can guarantee success of such steps as four countries have already declared their inability to attend the summit,” he said. The diplomat also pointed out that the leaders of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan do not want to share the dais with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The atmospherics for the cancellation began to build up after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan sent formal communications to Kathmandu on September 27 almost immediately after India expressed inability to participate due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan after the September 18 attack on the military base in Uri.
India argued that the SAARC rules are clear that the summit meeting cannot be held if one member withdraws. “The SAARC summit will be postponed since four nations have decided to not attend it. There is no other way,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the media.
Like India that cited “cross-border terrorist attacks in the region” as a reason for boycotting the summit, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan too expressed similar concerns in their official notes to Kathmandu.
The cancellation will be unprecedented as four members have cited “terrorism” , “interference” and “imposed violence” while withdrawing from the summit.
In the past, summits were postponed after quiet consultation but this time, major members of the regional grouping openly cited terrorism emanating from Pakistan as the reason for non-participation.
The tough Indian step had been under consideration since the Uri attack, the second such cross-border strike in nine months after the January 2 Pathankot airbase attack.