Highlights India is not a special invitee that Pakistan has the discretion to invite us. India is integral to the Saarc process, a government official said
Sources said Pakistan probably wanted to garner PR points in the presence of Indian media at the Kartarpur corridor ceremony
A Saarc summit is announced only after it has been decided upon by all members India dismissed as “posturing” a Pakistan foreign office announcement on Tuesday that it would “ invite” PM Narendra Modi to a Saarc summit in Islamabad.
Coming on the heels of the two countries joining forces to build the Kartarpur corridor, a long-standing Indian demand, the Pakistani announcement would have raised the possibility of resumption of the Saarc process, which has been stalled since 2016, had it not been for a crucial detail — Pakistan cannot unilaterally “invite” for Saarc.
A Saarc summit is announced only after it has been decided upon by all members.
It is only after the date has been decided by member states that formal invitations are sent out.
“India is not a special invitee that Pakistan has the discretion to invite us. India is integral to the Saarc process,” a senior government official said. “The date for a Saarc summit is finalised with the consent of all members. And that has not happened,” the official added.
Pakistan, sources said, probably wanted to garner some PR points in the presence of a large Indian media contingent which has travelled for the Kartarpur corridor’s inauguration to paint India as the obstinate one holding up regional cooperation. However, sources in Delhi said Bangladesh, which is going to the polls, or Sri Lanka, which is embroiled in a political crisis, are hardly likely to agree to a Saarc summit just now. Another member country Afghanistan, was equally unlikely to agree to one, sources added.
Pakistani PM Imran Khan is expected to interact with Indian journalists where he is likely to raise this issue as one awaiting resolution.
The last Saarc summit attended by Modi was in Kathmandu in 2014. In 2016, after the terror attack on an Army camp in Uri, India refused to agree to a summit. Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan followed suit, leading to the cancellation of the Saarc summit, which has not yet been revived. India and Pakistan have since had little official engagement.
Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Mohammed Faisal recalled that Khan, in his first address to the nation, had said that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two. He said Khan, in his response to Modi’s letter, had expressed Pakistan’s openness to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue. “We fought a war with India, relations cannot be fixed quickly,” he added.
The raised expectations of an India-Pakistan thaw was fuelled by Modi’s own remarks that if the Berlin Wall could come down, the Kartarpur corridor could do the same.