Sri Lanka joins countries boycotting SAARC summit in Islamabad

Staff Correspondent | Updated at 03:29am on October 01, 2016

SAARC logoSri Lanka on Friday pulled out of participation in the 19th SAARC summit in a similar move of four other members of the regional body.

The foreign ministry of Sri Lanka said in a statement that the prevailing environment in the region ‘is not conducive for holding’ the summit in Islamabad scheduled for November 9-10.

The island country took the step three days after Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India informed Nepal, the current SAARC chair, about their inability to join the summit in Islamabad.

Five of the eight member countries, made the same decision to boycott the summit in Islamabad when India sought to isolate Pakistan in the wake of attack on its base in the disputed region of Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers.

India said on Thursday that it had conducted ‘surgical strikes’ on suspected militants preparing ‘to infiltrate’ from Pakistan-ruled Kashmir, making its first direct military response to the attack on its army base in Uri of India-controlled Kashmir.

Sri Lanka said in its statement, ‘Peace and security are essential elements for the success of meaningful regional cooperation for the benefit of the people of South Asia. As a founding member of SAARC, committed to regional cooperation, Sri Lanka hopes that the steps required to ensuring our region’s peace and security will be taken to create an environment that is conducive for the pursuit of regional cooperation.’

Sri Lanka condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed that the issue of terrorism in the region should be dealt with in a decisive manner.

Sri Lanka said that the SARRC charter required that decisions at all levels were taken on the basis of unanimity, and this applied to the convening of meetings of heads of state or government of SAARC countries as well.

Bangladesh government was also accusing Pakistan of interference in Bangladesh’s internal affairs over execution of 1971 war crimes convicts.

Nepal urged South Asian nations on Thursday to create a ‘conducive environment’ so that a regional summit could be held as scheduled for November in Pakistan’s capital.

Nepal’s prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Thursday said that the SAARC Charter should be amended and called on the secretariat of the regional body based in Kathmandu for proposing reforms.

Dahal, while speaking at a programme on ‘SAARC effectiveness’ in Kathmandu on Thursday, complained about the poor performance of the regional bloc compared to other regional groups.

The status of the implementation of past agreements and understanding under SAARC has been ‘very poor,’ said Dahal while calling for overall restructuring of the SAARC process.

SAARC, consisting of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, was founded in 1985 to promote economic cooperation in the region. Tensions between India and Pakistan have, however, repeatedly blocked progress.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since partition in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, where the two countries regularly exchange fire across the disputed border.

The last SAARC summit was held in Nepal in 2014.