Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reportedly not attending the upcoming 19th Saarc Summit scheduled for November 9 and 10 in Islamabad amid rising tension between the two countries.
The Indian media has reported that Prime Minister Modi has not only decided to skip the upcoming Saarc summit but is also persuading like-minded countries including Bangladesh and Afghanistan to boycott the important regional meeting of heads of state and government.
However, there was no official confirmation from the Indian External Affairs Ministry as well as from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.
The Foreign Office spokesperson was not available for comments. In a text message toBusiness Recorder, a spokesperson for Indian High Commission described the report as “media speculation” and referred this correspondent to August 18 weekly briefing of External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
“As far as Prime Minister’s visit to Pakistan for the Saarc Summit is concerned, you would appreciate that decisions and announcements of such nature are not made so much far in advance,” Swarup told his regular briefing last month.
The Foreign Office sources, however, said that there has been no official communication from the Indian side relating to the reported decision of the Indian Prime Minister not to attend the summit.
They said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already invited the leaders of Saarc member states including the Indian Prime Minister as well as nine observers of the regional organisation to attend the summit.
They said that preparations were also under way for successful holding of the Summit and a Saarc Summit Cell, headed by Ambassador Amjad Sial has also been set up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Sial is a senior diplomat and nominee of the government of Pakistan as the next Secretary General of Saarc.
On September 6, Indian High Commissioner for Pakistan Gautam Bambawale told reporters in Karachi that Prime Minister Modi was looking forward to visiting Islamabad for the Saarc Summit but quickly added that he was not sure about the future.
“As of today, Prime Minister Modi is looking forward to visiting Islamabad for the Saarc summit in November, but I can’t say about the future,” he said.
Sources maintain that chances of Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the Saarc Summit after the Uri attack have become ‘more uncertain’.
However, analysts did not rule out Indian participation in the event that Prime Minister Modi decides not to attend the summit, as there is still one and a half months left for the meeting.
“Currently, there is an intensified diplomatic and political warfare going on between Pakistan and India. At this stage, one cannot rule out an expected decision by Prime Minister Modi to skip the summit.
But he can nominate any other from his administration, most likely vice-president Hamid Ansai to attend the summit,” said Hassan Askari Rizi, a senior analyst.
He pointed out that India has always been quick to label Pakistan as a ‘terrorist state’ to isolate the country at an international level but it has never succeeded, adding New Delhi also made such attempts in 1992 and 1993.
According to him, India was largely relying on the US to declare Pakistan a “terrorist state” but the Obama administration will ‘never go for any such move which will have repercussions in Afghanistan’.
“Washington needs Islamabad to play its effective role in the Afghan reconciliation process and taking such a major decision against Pakistan will definitely result in complications in the peace process,” Rizvi said.
However, he added that US will continue to build pressure on Pakistan with regard to Indian allegations of cross-border infiltration, accusations that would be echoed by the Afghan leadership. -Business Recorder