SAARC failure compels Lanka to find other ‘viable options’: PM
With the collapse of SAARC Summit in Pakistan, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the failure of the regional grouping to deliver “acceptable results” for all members would spell a “bleak future” and compel his country to find other “viable options”.
Wickremesinghe’s remark assumes significance as Sri Lanka was one of the four SAARC member-states which sided with India in pulling out of the summit scheduled in Islamabad on November 9-10 over an attack on an Indian army base in Uri on September 18 by Pakistan-based terrorists.
Delivering a lecture on ‘Sri Lanka and its Place in the World” at the New Zealand Parliament House in Auckland on Monday, the Sri Lankan premier said that following the Uri attack, the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad has been postponed.
“This year’s SAARC Summit is in jeopardy due to the war prevailing on the border. However, as the SAARC plays an important role, carrying out the Summit is a matter of great importance,” Wickremesinghe said.
“I explained that while the failure of SAARC to deliver acceptable results for all members would spell out a bleak future, it would also compel Sri Lanka to look towards other viable options,” he said.
He, however, did not elaborate what he meant by “other viable options” but said it was imperative that Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations work together to improve regional cooperation.
Wickremesinghe recalled the 1985 SAARC Summit when Sri Lanka proposed countering border terrorism as an issue, but he rued it was ultimately not agreed upon due to disagreements among member-states.
He sought a simple plan from SAARC members which could be agreed upon to move forward in the light of the situation.
Sri Lankan Opposition parties have been critical of the government’s decision to pull out of the Summit, alleging it was a decision to “please” India while causing displeasure to Pakistan.
Other than Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have also pulled out of the summit saying the regional environment was “not conducive” for a succesfull meet.
Nepal, the SAARC Chair, has asked member-states to ensure their territories are not used for cross-border terrorism.