Indian PM May Not Attend SAARC Summit In Pakistan

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Narendra Modi - Photo: mindthis.ca

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not attend the SAARC Summit to be held on November 9-10 in Islamabad. Although Pakistan has invited PM Modi to attend the summit, India is yet to confirm whether the PM will travel to Islamabad for the regional meet.

A senior official of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday that it would be a difficult decision to make. The official, who wished to remain anonymous, also said that the government would have to consider a number of factors before making a final decision. PM Modi has no plan to visit Pakistan due to the chill in bilateral ties. However, it becomes difficult for him to ignore India’s commitment to multilateral organisation. A couple of months ago, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj hinted that PM Modi would attend the summit. Later, she admitted that the scenario changed in recent times, prompting India to cancel the PM’s visit.

Earlier this month, New Delhi sent Home Minister Rajnath Singh to Islamabad to attend a meeting of SAARC home ministers. The Indian government argued that Singh’s visit to Islamabad was a demonstration of New Delhi’s commitment to its role in the regional multilateral organisation. As some Pakistani outfits had staged protest against the Indian minister’s arrival in Islamabad, the PM decided to skip the SAARC Summit.

Meanwhile, Indian foreign policy experts have advised PM Modi to attend the summit. According to experts, the Indian PM has put the neighbouring country under tremendous pressure by saying that New Delhi would be forced to raise Islamabad’s human rights violations in Balochistan, if it continues to foment violence in Jammu and Kashmir. They believe that the SAARC Summit will be the ideal platform for Modi to raise the pressure further.

Premier Modi visited Pakistan in December 2015 for the last time. It was his surprise stopover in Lahore on his way from Kabul to New Delhi. He arrived in Lahore mainly to wish Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. However, his effort to maintain “close ties” with Pakistan was punctured just days later, when some Pakistani terrorists attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.

In a separate development, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in New Delhi on Monday to take part in the second Indo-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. During the event to be held on Tuesday, Kerry will discuss various issues, including terrorism (emanating from Pakistan), with top Indian officials. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are scheduled to co-chair the Dialogue along with Kerry and US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

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