Taking advantage of the media attention on the occasion of the foundation stone laying ceremony of Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan, the Imran Khan government has been very keen to hog all the limelight they can get. Yesterday, the Pakistan foreign office, in an announcement, stated that Pakistan will ‘invite’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the next SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit to be held at Islamabad this year.
According to reports, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal announced in a conference on the eve of the Kartarpur Corridor ceremony that their PM Imran Khan had promised during his victory speech that if India takes one step towards peace, Pakistan will take two. He added that confirming to that stand, Pakistan will ‘invite’ Indian PM Modi for the SAARC summit in Islamabad.
Ironically, the announcement by Pakistan was done at the ‘Kashmir Conference’ organised at Islamabad. The FO spokesperson, using the Kartarpur Corridor ceremony as a peg, also stated, “The groundbreaking at Kartarpur will be our big achievement”. Many media outlets, national and international, had lapped up the statement and the ‘invitation’ was widely reported.
However, India soon called out Pakistan’s announcement as ‘posturing’. Emphasizing that SAARC is a multinational forum and its decisions have to be agreed upon by all the member nations, India pointed out that Pakistan cannot extend ‘invitations’ unilaterally.
A government official was quoted by the Times of India saying that India is not some special invitee for Pakistan to ‘invite’, but rather, India is integral to the SAARC process. The official also added that the date for the summit is finalised after all nations have agreed to it and that has not happened yet.
It is reported that, due to the presence of a large media contingent in Pakistan for the Kartarpur ceremony, Pakistan had possibly hoped for some positive PR by posturing that Pakistan is open for warm relations while India has been stubborn.
Other media reports too, have quoted bureaucrats saying that the SAARC has been doomed since India boycotted and PM Modi is very unlikely to attend.
It is notable here that India had declined to attend the SAARC summit in November 2016 due to the Uri attacks, refusing to engage with Pakistan and following India’s cue, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka had also declined to attend.
The SARRC summits of the heads of nations have been stalled since then.
India has suspended bilateral dialogues with Pakistan after the Uri attacks. Earlier this year, MEA Sushma Swaraj had walked out early of an informal meeting of SAARC nations at the sidelines of the UN general assembly. Swaraj had stated in her short statement that the ecosystem of terrorism can only be dismantled with solid action on the ground.
Before that, India had accepted the newly elected Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s proposal for peace talks after he resumed office. However, after the incidents of abduction and killing of Indian security personnel by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and the release of Pakistani postage stamps glorifying terrorists, India had cancelled the proposed talks.