Kathmandu: There are indications that the environment is conducive for the 19th SAARC Summit, which has not been held for five years due to the India-Pakistan conflict.
In recent times, relations between India and Pakistan have been improving and the two countries have started participating in meetings of SAARC and various other mechanisms.
Similarly, the two countries have also taken various steps to improve relations. India and Pakistan have agreed to a ceasefire in the border area only on Thursday.
Recently, top officials of both the countries have been holding internal talks to start peace talks. For the past three months, there have been talks between top officials of the two countries.
The two countries have agreed to implement previous understandings, agreements and ceasefires to maintain peace in the border areas. If the agreement is implemented, the regional environment will be conducive for the SAARC Summit.
India has been saying that the regional situation is unfavorable for the conference. If the current ceasefire agreement is implemented, there could be 19 summits in Islamabad.
The past year has seen various positive messages regarding the way forward SAARC. The last time Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a program of top health officials from SAARC and two other countries was on February 18. Pakistan was also invited to the event.
Addressing the event, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a special visa scheme for health workers in the region, regional air ambulances and other ongoing cooperation in the health sector and some long-term cooperation. This shows that India is keen on regional cooperation. Only SAARC can move these proposals forward.
A joint meeting of SAARC foreign ministers, health ministers and foreign ministers was also held during the Corona epidemic. Not only this, meetings of various other SAARC mechanisms are also being held. In March last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held video talks with SAARC governments and heads of state. The Corona-targeted SAARC Emergency Fund was announced at the meeting.
Whether or not the SAARC summit will take place will depend on India. Lately, there are fears that India may want to move WIMSTEC or another body as an alternative to SAARC. If India’s attitude towards SAARC has not changed and it wants to move it forward, then the environment is conducive.
If relations between the two countries improve, Indian Prime Minister Modi will travel to Islamabad to attend the SAARC summit, as Pakistan is responsible for hosting the SAARC summit. If India is ready, a summit on Islamabad is likely later this year. The biennial conference has not been held for five years. Referring to the top officials there, the Indian media has mentioned that the atmosphere is becoming conducive for Modi to go to Islamabad for the SAARC summit.
India has taken the approach of improving relations in the last one year as it has pursued a policy of isolating Pakistan diplomatically since 2016.
If there is no major incident in the border area between India and Pakistan like this before, the relationship is likely to improve which will further help in creating a conducive environment for the SAARC Summit. Nepal and other SAARC member countries are urging to convene the SAARC summit as soon as possible.
This week, Pakistan and Sri Lanka discussed ways to strengthen SAARC and speed up the summit. During the visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to Sri Lanka, it was agreed to strengthen the SAARC process.