SUBIR BHAUMIK The burning down of 9 crude oil tankers in Upper Assam points to a change in equations between rebel groups in India’s Northeast. Indian intelligence agencies now confirm that this violent action was carried by joint squads of ULFA (Independent) and NSCN (Issak-Muivah) guerrillas. But ULFA(I) is in the rebel coalition UNLFSWEA that was…
Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan have joined India in boycotting the forthcoming SAARC Summit scheduled at Islamabad in November.
The Summit has been postponed, said a top source in Nepal’s foreign ministry after all three of India’s neighbours conveyed their inability to attend the summit to Nepal, the current chairperson of SAARC.
It is reliably learnt that Nepal with backing from Sri Lanka and Maldives is trying to postpone the Summit rather than cancel it.
That may not be easy, given the prevailing mood in South Asia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided not to travel to Islamabad for the summit on Tuesday. Almost immediately, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan pulled out, leaving Pakistan badly isolated in the region.
The SAARC or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit cannot take place even if one of the eight members withdraws.
The Bangladesh statement said: “The growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.”
Narendra Modi decided not to travel to Islamabad for the summit on Tuesday. Almost immediately, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan pulled out, leaving Pakistan badly isolated in the region
A statement from Bhutan foreign ministry said: “The Royal Government of Bhutan shares the concerns of some SAARC member countries on the deterioration of regional peace and security due to terrorism and joins them in conveying our inability to participate in the SAARC Summit, under the current circumstances.”
The statement from Afghanistan was more blunt: “Due to the increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan, the President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani with his responsibilities as the Commander in Chief will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the Summit.”
India has said “cross-border terror attacks” have created an environment that is “not conducive” for the SAARC Summit.
The boycott by half the SAARC nations comes as a shot in the arm for Indian efforts to isolate Pakistan after the Sept 18 Uri attack, in which 18 soldiers were killed.
Bangladesh is also upset with ‘brazen Pakistani interference’ over the war crimes trials, which touched a raw nerve across the country.
Pakistan has threatened to take the executions of the war criminals to UN, provoking Bangladesh to assert that Islamabad was unrepentant over the 1971 genocide of millions of Bengalis by its army.
Dhaka has also expelled two Pakistani diplomats, who, its intelligence, says were “ISI staffers masquerading as diplomats” and ” backing terrorists”. Pakistan retaliated by expelling Bangladesh diplomat Moushumi Rahman without assigning any reason.
Afghanistan has said it was much as a victim of ‘Pakistan sponsored cross border terrorism’ as India.
Its envoy Shaida Abdali was the first to pitch for a joint boycott of SAARC summit last week in an interview to Indian TV channel, NDTV.