Will India attend next SAARC Summit in Islamabad?

Will India attend next SAARC Summit in Islamabad?N.P. Upadhyaya,

Kathmandu: On June 1, 2019, Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli told an Indian newspaper that BIMSTEC can’t replace the SAARC and that the stalled meets of the SAARC regional body must be convened at the earliest.PM Oli as an intimate friend of the Indian regime abruptly went against the Indian stance that favours now the enhanced role of the Indian tail-the BIMSTEC instead of the revival of the near to the dead SAARC regional body must have disturbed the brains of the men who control the Indian establishment.

Except Pakistan, most of the SAARC members are taken as the tail of the Indian establishment.

PM Oli was in Delhi to attend to the inaugural ceremony of Nepal-Blockade-specialist Modi for his second inning as India’s Prime Minister.

Prior to Oli’s Nepal departure, he talked to a Delhi newspaper that BIMSTEC can’t substitute the SAARC regional body.

Oli’s blunt assertion in favour of the SAARC must have annoyed Delhi and more so to the new Indian Prime Minister but PM Modi preferred not to retort back to what PM Oli had said of the SAARC regional body. Or else a new economic blockade on Nepal would have been imposed like the previous one of 2015.

And as if this bombshell from Nepal PM Oli were not enough, Nepal’s Ambassador to India, Nilambar Acharya (highly presumed as PM Modi’s preferred choice?) on June 8, 2019, too added fuel to the fire and reiterated almost the same that BIMSTEC can in no way substitute the SAARC regional grouping.

Ambassador Acharya talked this to the Times of India.

This meant that excessive pressure was being built by Nepal at both the central government and Ambassadorial level.

India was just listening to these somewhat pinching comments on BIMSTEC ( let’s take it for some time as India’s test tube baby) and on the contrary some soothing remarks for the SAARC body were being made by friends like Nepal which, as India guessed, could not go against Indian preferences.

But Nepal remained undeterred. However, what prompted PM Oli and Nepal’s Ambassador in Delhi to challenge the Indian preference is a mystery even as of now. PM Oli may have been influenced by China? This is what India believed then.

The real tragedy for India was in the pipeline already.

A bombshell was exploded none less than by the Bhutanese Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering on June 16, 2019, when the Bhutanese Prime Minister while talking to an Indian newspaper right in the Bhutanese capital Thimpu bluntly told the Indian media man that SAARC must be kept alive and kicking and that India and Pakistan must come to terms and the regional conglomerate must be allowed to function in a manner what it used to be in the good old days.

Dr. Lotay wanted to tell all and sundry that India and Pakistan’s enmity must not be allowed to kill the very spirit of SAARC with which it was founded in the early eighties.

Prime Minister Dr. Lotay is a Bhutanese politician and a renowned medical doctor and is in office since 7 November 2018.

He has also been the president of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa since 14 May 2018.

In all, well within the month of June 2019, the Indian Prime Minister received two unexpected jolts from its presumed satellite nations
A terribly shaken Bhutan Prime Minister fearing wrath from the Indian Union hurriedly invited the newly “crane elevated” Indian Foreign Minister S. Shankar and perhaps told him of the Bhutanese compulsions.

Minister Shankar must have admonished Dr. Lotay-the Prime Minister of Bhutan.

As if not convinced by Shankar’s Bhutan trip, Prime Minister Modi himself made a short trip to Thimpu and is learnt to have threatened Bhutan not to get excited by regional events.

“Do not look towards China”, PM Modi may have also instructed his Bhutanese counterpart.

Dr. Lotay, a thorough gentleman and a seasoned medical practitioner got more than excited in meeting the regional troublemaker PM Modi on the sideliners of the UN general assembly a few days back in New York.

The high drama unfolds:

As per the announcement made by Nepal-the current SAARC Chair at the end of August last month, the SAARC nations were duly informed that on the side-lines of the UN general Assembly, a meet of the SAARC foreign ministers shall be convened. (The telegraph Nepal online portal perhaps had initially disclosed the likelihood of the SAARC FM level meet in New York even if India and Pakistan were not on speaking terms then and even as of now).

Tentatively, all the SAARC nations have had endorsed the Nepali proposal in advance and things were going smoothly and accordingly the SAARC Chair-Nepal’s foreign minister Pradip Gyawali summoned the SAARC meet on September 26/19 inside in one of the small halls of the UN building.

However, the drama began thus. The SAARC meet as per the schedule convened and the Indian foreign minister S. Jay Shankar made a statement wherein he, unexpectedly though, talked somehow or the other in favour of the regional cooperation.

He in effect did not summarily reject the SAARC regional body which hinted that India too was at least for some time to come not against the “liquidation” of the SAARC regional grouping at the cost of the BIMSTEC-the pet political grouping of the Indian establishment.

However, the Pakistani foreign Minister Qureshi preferred not to listen to minister Shankar’s remarks by saying that “I am not interested in listening to the speech of the one whose nation has been creating troubles in Kashmir beginning August 5/19”.

In other words FM Qureshi boycotted the Indian FM’s statement made on SAARC.

Later when Minister Shankar left the venue, the Pak FM Qureshi entered the meeting hall and spoke of the regional body and invited all the SAARC member countries to Pakistan to attend to the next SAARC Summit.

Minister Shankar too boycotted FM Qureshi’s remarks made inside the meeting hall.

So it was just a ‘tit for tat and if you kill my cat I will kill your rat’.

Interestingly, to everybody’s surprise, the Pakistani invitation to attend the next SAARC meet in Islamabad was not rejected by the Indian delegation. This is puzzling.

The other SAARC countries were seen happy thinking that the SAARC better late than never had come to its original track.

The dates of the next SAARC Summit has yet to be finalised by Islamabad.

So far, since India has not said straight “NO” to Pakistan’s invitation for the next SAARC Summit, let’s presume that India and Pakistan in the near future come to terms and allow the SAARC regional body to function on a regular basis.

Says India Today dated September 27 quoting the Pakistani foreign minister that “Shah Mehmood Qureshi has asserted that no SAARC member states have “objected” to the next meet being held in Pakistan”.

India Today further writes that the Minister said “I invited all member states to Islamabad so that SAARC-related issues are resolved. No one objected to it. It has been decided that the next summit-level meeting of SAARC will be held in Islamabad and Pakistan will propose the dates soon,” Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.

This paper would also appeal both India and Pakistan to give a new lease of life to the SAARC regional body so that it could work for enhancing greater connectivity in and among the countries housed in this part of South Asia.

The SAARC regional grouping comprises of Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, The Maldives and Afghanistan. That’s all.

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