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SAARC Summit abandoned

The eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an inter-governmental association established in December 1985 in Dhaka by the Governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for the purpose of economic and regional development and cooperation. The 19th SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November 9-10 this year has been cancelled after India used its diplomatic clout to dissuade member countries from attending it, following the attack on Indian army base at Uri in Jammu & Kashmir on September 25 by Pakistani trained terrorists which killed 18 Indian jawans. This is the second attack after Pathankot on January 2.

Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives pulled out of the Summit after the Uri strike clearly established Pakistan’s involvement in attacking a member state.  Only Nepal remained steadfast, perhaps due to that country’s proximity with China which is an ally of Pakistan. A statement from the Pakistan Foreign Office said that the spirit of the SAARC Charter is violated when a member state casts the shadow of its bilateral problems on the multilateral forum for regional cooperation but stated that the Summit would be held at the earliest. It is unfortunate that SAARC has never really been given the thrust that is needed in what is seen as a South Asian conglomerate for better economic cooperation. But the fact that Pakistan has been consistently fomenting terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir makes a travesty of SAARC and violates its spirit. How can there be collaboration with a country that is intent on inflicting India with a thousand cuts? SAARC has therefore become a non-starter because without India playing the leading role it is almost a defunct entity. There cannot be economic cooperation with a country that is now a potential enemy. Hence India also seeks to revisit the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status on Pakistan which it had earlier granted I order to enhance trade and commerce between the two countries. At this rate it looks like SAARC is set to remain non-functional unless Pakistan mends its ways which is unlikely!

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