The postponement of 13th SAARC summit which was to be
held on Feb 6-7, 2005 in Dhaka, has disappointed the member countries.
Being the Chairman of the SAARC, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
had to announce the postponement after consultation with Bangladesh. In
fact, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had declined to
participate because of political turnout in Nepal and deteriorating
security situation in the host country, Bangladesh.
Both Bangladesh and Nepal have expressed their
disappointment and anger labeling the Indian move as unwarranted and
unacceptable. "We are shocked and dismayed at the unwarranted and
unexpected decision of the Government of India not to attend the SAARC
summit after all preparations had been completed," said the
Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary H. Shamsher Choudhry in a press statement
adding that "the reasons given for this decision as far as it
relates to security situation in Dhaka is unacceptable. Such a
announcement goes counter to the spirit of the SAARC Charter," he
The Press Trusts of India, quoting official sources,
has reported that the situation in neighboring Nepal where King
Gyanendra has sacked his Prime Minister and his cabinet recently was the
reason spotted by the Indian Prime Minister to stay away. However, the
Nepalese authorities have described this argument as rubbish.
It is for the second time that 13th summit has been
delayed, as earlier the summit scheduled for January 2005 had to be
postponed owing to tsunami tragedy on December 26, 2004.
Indian refusal to attend has come as a shock to the
member countries including Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives besides
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who was to
represent Pakistan in the summit talked to Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Begum Khalida Zia on telephone and expressed his disappointment over
Shaukat said: "Pakistan views SAARC as an
important forum for enhancement of regional cooperation and to promote
links among South Asian nations. He hoped that new dates for the 13th
Summit will be worked out soon and the process of regional cooperation
would continue undeterred."
Sharing disappointment and offering Islamabad's
support for Nepal's sovereignty, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also
telephoned Nepali King and raised two points. First that Pakistan saw
the situation in Kathmandu as purely an internal problem of Nepal and
that Islamabad fully supported the present government headed by the
monarch. Secondly, Islamabad expressed disappointment at the Indian
decision to postpone the SAARC summit. Shaukat Aziz assured the King
that he would get in touch with all SAARC member states so as to come
with fresh dates.
Officials, meanwhile have established contacts with
other SAARC members as well. One diplomat said Prime Minister Khaleda
Zia was furious at the Indian remarks and said that they had
deliberately tried to undermine her government. She expressed these
sentiments when she talked to the Pakistani leadership on
The summit has been postponed for 8 times in its 20
years of history out of which five times it happened because of India.
Altogether, twelve summits have held since the association was founded
in Dhaka in 1985 to promote economic cooperation in the heavily
militarized and poverty ridden region. It was the brain child of former
Bangladeshi president late Zia Ur Rehman, husband of the present Prime
Minister of Bangladesh.
Sources on condition of anonymity have confided to
this correspondent that it neither the concern for security in Dhaka nor
a political change in Nepal it is the present Prime Minister of
Bangladesh Begum Khalida Zia who is not in good hooks of India. They
said the apprehensions are being expressed in Islamabad and in several
other SAARC states that India will never agree to a regional conference
in Dhaka as long as Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is in power.
Though Pakistan being the incumbent chairperson of
SAARC has been making phone calls to different SAARC capitals, it is
difficult to gauge for them to speculate fresh dates, sources said.
The monarchy in Katmandu has announced to take at
least three years to bring situation under control and the ground
situation in Dhaka is also not going to change so quickly as to bring
Sheikh Hasina Wajid back into power", said sources.
Unfortunately, the Indian political agenda seems to
harm the progress of SAARC as a vibrant organization of regional
cooperation. It surely does not reflect well on the spirit of
cooperation among its member nations that after twenty years of its
existence this regional group remains virtually moribund mainly due to
India's negative attitude whereas political rivalries and interests
taking precedence over SAARC's guiding principles.