SAARC Summit: Pak blocks 3 major projects by India; Modi, Sharif avoid meeting
KATHMANDU: Pakistan on Wednesday played spoilsport by
blocking three major SAARC connectivity projects initiated by India, even as
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conspicuously avoided meeting his Pakistani
counterpart Nawaz Sharif while he met five other South Asian leaders here.
The 18th South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) summit appeared to become a non-starter with agreement on
the three projects - an electricity grid and trade in electricity, and road and
rail connectivity - stalled by Pakistan on the premise that it still had to
conclude its “internal processes” on it.
While Modi, who gave a forceful maiden speech at the
summit on the need for seamless connectivity, met his Bangladeshi and Bhutanese
counterparts Sheikh Hasina and Tshering Tobgay, and later the presidents of
Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives - Ashraf Ghani, Mahinda Rajapaksa and
Abdulla Yameen - Sharif was not on the list.
India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed
Akbaruddin said there was “no structured meeting” planned between the two
leaders as India had not received any request for such a meet from Pakistan.
However, there is speculation that the two leaders
could meet Thursday during the retreat at the Dhulikhel resort. Both prime
ministers are here for the two-day SAARC summit that began Wednesday.
Nepal is trying its level best to see that the summit
should not go empty, and trying to get Pakistan on board for the agreements. Nepal’s
Foreign Affairs Minister Khagnath Adhikari told IANS, “Our last ditch effort
will be continued until Thursday. We are trying to have at least an energy
related pact in the summit.”
In his address, Modi also referred to terrorism,
especially in the context of the sixth anniversary of the horrific 26/11 Mumbai
terror attack, in which 10 Pakistani terrorists unleashed mayhem in India's
commercial capital in 2008 on this day.
“Today, as we remember the horror of the terror attack
in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives. Let us work together
to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and trans-national
crimes,” he said, without any reference to Pakistan.
India has been pressing Pakistan to go ahead with the
trial of the 26/11 accused. Modi urged the South Asian nations to work together
to “change cynicism to optimism” and said it was time that the member nations
were not just “paas paas” (next to each other) but also “saath saath” (standing
He pitched for seamless connectivity in the region and
proposed trade in electricity and pushed for connectivity and services by rail,
road and air. He said India will now give business visa for 3-5 years for Saarc
and also issue a Saarc Business Traveller Card.