Thursday Sep 29, 2016
Web Desk

SAARC conference in Pakistan postponed

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit scheduled to take place in Islamabad in November has been postponed, officials confirmed Wednesday, after India and three other countries pulled out of the key South Asian summit.

The other countries included Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Bhutan, according to an official with the Nepali government, the current chair of SAARC.

The Foreign Office (FO) of Pakistan has said that India has a track record of impeding the SAARC process.

"Indian intentions of creating hurdles yet again are visible from the actions and statements at the political level during the last two months, coupled with coordinated media efforts," said FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria.

He said the neighboring country was desperate to divert the world attention from atrocities and blatant human rights abuses being committed by its forces on defenceless people in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK).

Noting that during last 80 days, over 100 Kashmiris have been martyred and more than 800 wounded through the use of pellet guns, the spokesman said: "The Indian atrocities have attracted the world attention, which is manifested in the strong condemnations and calls by international organisations for sending fact-finding missions to IoK."

"It may be pertinent to mention that the major thrust of SAARC activities it to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the people of South Asia, having the highest concentration of world's poor," he added.

Zakaria said that India's negative attitude has had a direct bearing on the welfare and betterment in this region, which is highly regrettable.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that the SAARC secretariat has not yet informed officially about the postponement of the conference. He, however, said that chances were that the SAARC conference would be postponed.

The foreign adviser said whenever the conference takes place, it will be held in Pakistan. Aziz said that it is not the first time India is not attending the regional summit.

He said that India had earlier also caused the summit to be postponed four times.

Sartaj Aziz said even if one of the member pulls out, the conference cannot go on as per schedule.

The conference was previously scheduled for November 9 and 10.

Earlier, Indian media said that the upcoming SAARC conference in Islamabad will be cancelled.

Indian media claimed that Nepal, which currently chairs the SAARC, is seeking a new venue for the annual summit in November after a number of members decided to boycott the conference in Islamabad.

As chair of the SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation), Nepal is trying to move the conference out of Pakistan in an effort to salvage the 19th summit. No summit is held even if one nation does not show up.

In a high-level meeting called by Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda in Kathmandu, it was decided that efforts will be made to reach out to other countries to ensure that the SAARC project goes on.

Afghanistan, Bhutan and India have already pulled out of the conference, citing Pakistan's alleged role in fomenting terror in the region as the reason.

On Tuesday India's Ministry of External Affairs had confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not be attending the SAARC summit in Islamabad.

"In the prevailing circumstances the government of India is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad," India had said in a statement.

The regional conference seems to be in peril due to exacerbation of ties between Pakistan and India over recent past months.

The already lukewarm relations between the two neighbouring countries worsened due to escalation of conflict in Indian-held Kashmir since July and in wake of the recent Uri attack that killed 18 Indian soldiers.