New India-Pakistan tension threatens SAARC future

Published On: February 18, 2019 11:20 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, Feb 18: Although Nepal as its chair has been constantly calling for convening the SAARC Summit at the earliest, a renewed diplomatic tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack has made the SAARC Summit further uncertain.

Experts in Kathmandu fear that the deterioration in the already troubled relations between New Delhi and Islamabad after the suicide attack on Thursday by terrorists in which at least 44 Indian security personnel were killed could leave the fate of the of this South Asia regional body itself in jeopardy.

“This is a latest in the series of setbacks for SAARC. An organization that is already in coma with a long gap in holding a summit has to face further obstacles due to the latest setback,” said executive director of Kathmandu-based think tank, Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS), Dr Nishchal Nath Pandey. 

The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group—a terrorist outfit India claims to be based in Pakistan-- has taken the responsibility for the attack. India has alleged that Pakistan was involved in the attack as Islamabad has been “sponsoring” and “sheltering terrorists and terrorist organizations such as JeM —something Pakistani Foreign Secretary in his briefing has rejected outright. 

“Pakistan cannot claim that it is unaware of their presence and their activities. They have not taken any action against these groups despite international demands, especially against groups and individuals proscribed by the UN and other countries,” said spokesperson of the Indian External Affairs Ministry. 

Amid growing diplomatic tensions after the suicide bomb attack in Pulwama, India on Saturday raised customs duty on all products imported from Pakistan by 200 percent. New Delhi has also stepped up its diplomatic efforts to ensure Pakistan’s complete isolation, as China continues to block its move to keep JeM leader Masood Azhar in the designated terrorist list from the UN. 

Nepal in its capacity as the chair has been nudging both India and Pakistan to host the long-delayed summit to give momentum to the SAARC process. 

Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has been urging both India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue. 

“If US President Trump and North Korea’s Kim can meet, then why not (leaders of) other countries,” Minister Gyawali had famously asked during an interaction with a group of journalists in New Delhi recently. 

Nepal hosted the 18th SAARC Summit in November, 2014 and it is now Pakistan’s turn to host the 19th summit. The SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in 2016 was similarly cancelled after India expressed its inability to attend it following the terror attack at an army camp in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir on September 18, 2016. 

Back then, India had said that under the “prevailing circumstances”, it would not be able to attend the summit.

Recently, in November 2018, India had snubbed the invitation of Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit, alleging that Islamabad had not demonstrated visible action toward curbing terrorist activities emanating from its soil.


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