Colombo, September 28 (NIA): A summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) cannot be held even if one of its members decides to boycott it, and therefore, it is not necessary for every member country to declare whether it will be attending or not, sources in the Sri Lankan Foreign Office said.
They were asked what Sri Lanka intends to do since India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan have declared their intention to boycott this year’s summit to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 9 and 10.
The SAARC charter says that all decisions of SAARC, at all levels, will be taken on the basis of unanimity. Therefore, if one member has stayed out, there will be no unanimity and no decision can be taken, it is pointed out.
India, which was the first to announce a boycott, said that the present climate in the SAARC region is not conducive to the holding of the summit because of the attack on the Indian army base at Uri in Kashmir by Pakistan-based militants. Bangladesh said that 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.
“Bangladesh, as the initiator of the SAARC process, remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in a more congenial atmosphere. In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad,” Bangladesh told Nepal which is the current chair of SAARC. .
Bhutan said while it is committed to the SAARC process and strengthening of regional cooperation, it is concerned over the “recent escalation of terrorism in the region, which has seriously compromised the environment for the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad.”
It further said that the “Royal Government of Bhutan shares the concerns of some of the member countries of SAARC 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.”
Afghanistan has also conveyed to the SAARC Chair, that its President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani would not be able to attend the Summit.
“Due to increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan and with his responsibilities as the Commander in Chief President Ashraf Ghani will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the Summit,” the Afghan statement said.
According to the SAARC charter, the Heads of State or Government “shall meet once a year or more often as and when considered necessary by the Member States”. But since its establishment, SAARC has not kept to the timetable.
There was no summit in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000,2001, 2003, 2006, 2009,2014, 2015 and there is going to be none in 2016. However, this has not been a major issue because the SAARC charter provides for the postponement of a summit at a member’s request.
In 1999, the summit was cancelled because of the military coup in Pakistan. The 1989 summit which was to be held in Colombo, could not be held there, because of the war unleashed by the Tamil Tiger separatists against the Indian Peace Keeping Force and also an insurgency led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) against the Sri Lankan government.
Sri Lankan President J.R.Jayewardene’s expectation that peace will be established in the island by the end of 1989 was not realized, and the SAARC Heads of State decided to shift that year’s summit to Islamabad in Pakistan.