How Indian Diplomacy Got SAARC Countries To Boycott Summit In Pakistan

On 2 October, the current chair of SAARC, Nepal, urged member states to “ensure that their respective territories are not used by terrorists for cross-border terrorism”, clearly hinting at Pakistan, which was forced to postpone this year’s summit after six members decided to boycott it.

According to this report in the Indian Express , on 27 September, the embassies of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, except Pakistan, were requested by New Delhi to boycott the summit. This request preceded India conducting surgical strikes against terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Pakistan branding Uri attack as stage-managed was the final straw that prompted India to diplomatically boycott Islamabad.

According to the sources mentioned in the IE report, none of the SAARC neighbours were given any briefing about the surgical strikes. Though, with some countries like Sri Lanka, foreign minister-level discussions took place. The Indian diplomats worked the phones with other SAARC countries to bring them on board.

Afghanistan sent the first letter on the boycott to the SAARC secretariat in Kathmandu. Kabul’s irritation with Islamabad was conveyed by President Ashraf Ghani, who visited India early September after the talks with Taliban did not make progress. When Ghani called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convey his condolences for Uri attacks, he also announced his unequivocal support to New Delhi. Thereafter, Afghan diplomats and South Block also exchanged notes.

Bhutan, although not affected by the terrorist attacks from Pakistan-backed groups, wanted to show its solidarity with India by not participating in the summit. Getting Bangladesh on board was predictable since Pakistan criticised the war crimes trial introduced by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and censured Dhaka for the hanging of those involved in the 1971 war.

Sri Lanka announced its inability to attend the summit after the surgical strikes, which signalled that there was a “decisive” nature to India’s response. Maldives and Nepal followed the decision of Colombo, completing Pakistan’s isolation. All the member states condemned international terrorism, specifically those originating from outside and said that the summit could only take place with cooperation from all member states.

This is one of the most overt display of India’s shrewd foreign policy as it persuaded all regional states to assist in the diplomatic isolation of Pakistan.