–India’s foreign minister says PM Modi won’t attend SAARC summit in Pakistan
–Says Pakistan needs to address ‘terrorism’ if it wants bilateral talks with India
With many hailing the opening of Kartarpur corridor a “victory of peace”, India once again turned down Pakistan’s invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, saying the “bilateral talks are linked with curbing terrorism, not Kartarpur corridor”.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said Prime Minister Modi will not be traveling to Pakistan for the summit; though she appreciated the decision to open the corridor.
Brushing off any possibility of improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, the minister said, “Until and unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in the summit,” she asserted.
She said, “Bilateral dialogue and Kartarpur corridor are two different things. I am very happy that for the last 20 years, rather many years, the government of India has been asking for this Kartarpur corridor. And for the first time, Pakistan has responded positively to this.”
On Tuesday, Pakistan announced that it would extend an invitation to Modi for attending the summit as Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal had asserted “Pakistan’s openness to resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue with India”.
Referring to a letter written by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart after assuming office, the spokesman had said, the invitation for attending the summit in Islamabad was renewed.
“The letter noted that SAARC summit may now be held and welcomed Modi to visit Islamabad so that a dialogue can be started and we can take it forward,” he had said.
However, the fate of 19th SAARC summit that was supposed to be convened in 2016 remains in limbo following India’s refusal to join it over Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Uri attack. India’s decision was followed by Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan expressing their “inability” to attend.
This would be the third time Pakistan won’t be able to convene the event due to India’s non-attendance, given the participation of all member states is mandatory for the summit.
Similarly, most-delayed 11th SAARC summit in Kathmandu was postponed owing to tensions between India and Pakistan. India had refused to attend the summit, citing legitimisation of military coup orchestrated by General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan whom it labels as the “mastermind of Kargil skirmish”.
It also refused to attend the 12th summit because of the prime minister’s schedule. India on those occasions used the participation card to pressure the hosts.
The first summit was held at the end of 1985 (December 7–8) when SAARC was officially launched. Since then, only 18 Summits have been held, i.e. ten in the first 15 years (1986 – 2000) and eight in next 15 years (2001 – 2016).
Twenty-five out of the 18 summits that SAARC has so far organised, only five were held on previously announced dates and venues, while five others could only be convened after reshuffling their venues and eight after changing their scheduled or expected dates.