Bhutan withdraws from the 19th SAARC summit
Bhutan has decided not to attend the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad in November 2016.
Following the 2016 Uri terror attack, India cancelled its participation in the 19th summit. Bhutan followed India’s decision to stay away from the summit because the deteriorating security situation in the region has created a poor environment for the summit.
The SAARC summit cannot be held even in the absence of one head of the government as per the SAARC charter. The SAARC submit requires the heads of state or government to meet once a year and the summits have generally taken place approximately every eighteen months.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said at the meet-the-press that India not participating in the summit means automatically that the summit wouldn’t take place. “Whether Bhutan says we are going to participate in the summit has no meaning actually,” he said.
Bangladesh also pulled out of the summit followed by Afghanistan. Sri Lanka too decided to pull out of the SAARC summit. Under such circumstances, it is not possible to participate in the summit.
Bhutan has joined some of the SAARC member states in expressing its inability to participate in the SAARC submit to the federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, as the current Chair of SAARC, that the situation is not condu- cive to the successful conduct of the summit. Lyonchhen said that rather than just being a quiet observer, the government had taken a responsible decision to join other nations which are not going to participate in the summit.
The recent escalation of terrorism in the region has seriously compromised the environment for the summit
Lyonchhen said there is no denying that the environment and atmosphere is far from being conducive to holding the summit. He said, “It proves definitely the security conditions in the region are not conducive to hold the SAARC summit.”
As one of the founding members of the SAARC, Bhutan is strongly committed to the SAARC process and strengthening of regional cooperation and is hopeful that the situation would return to normalcy to enable early and successful convening of the 19th SAARC Submit.
Lyonchhen also said the government had also shared the concerns with some member states on the deterioration of regional peace because of terror. “It doesn’t mean that we are not committed to regional cooperation but the same thing shouldn’t be happening as it is always circumstances,” he added.
Lyonchhen also assured that the cancellation of the summit would not affect the regional body. He said several summits had to be cancelled and many had to be postponed in the past.
Meanwhile, Nepal, the current chair of SAARC, has urged that a conducive environment be created soon to ensure the participation of all member states in the 19th SAARC summit in line with the spirit of the SAARC charter.
The first submit was held in Dhakha, Bangladesh on 7- 8 December 1985 and Bhutan hosted the sixteenth SAARC summit for the first time in Thimphu from 28- 29 April 2010.
SAARC countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.