Bhutan with­draws from the 19th SAARC sum­mit

Bhutan Times - - Home - Lhakpa Tsh­er­ing

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.

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