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Saarc meet virtually off as PM Modi says he won’t go to Pakistan

Saarc meet virtually off as PM Modi says he won’t go to Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Blaming Pakistan for not creating an atmosphere conducive for Saarc summit, India Tuesday announced that PM Narendra Modi will not travel to Islamabad for the proposed Summit in November. The development will likely be seen as first serious and meaningful Indian response to the Uri attack, which left 18 Indian soldiers dead, and in line with subsequent Indian assertions about isolating Pakistan diplomatically.

India’s decision means that the Summit will have to be called off as it operates through consensus. The announcement came hours after foreign secretary S Jaishankar summoned Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit and revealed to him that one of the slain terrorists in the Uri attack, and 2 other men who helped the terrorists cross the LoC, were all from Muzaffarabad in PoK.

Basit told Jaishankar in the meeting that Pakistan believed the attack was the handiwork of Indian security forces meant to divert attention from the strife in Kashmir and demanded an international probe into it.

MEA said in a press release that it had conveyed to Saarc Chair Nepal that increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of Member States by “one country” had created an environment that was not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th Saarc Summit.

“India remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in an atmosphere free of terror,” said the foreign ministry.

While the government said in the statement that some other countries too had expressed reservation about attending the Summit in Islamabad, top sources said that? Bangadesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan too had refused to attend the event in Islamabad. Afghanistan and Bangladesh had earlier publicly said that they were not keen on participating in Saarc, mainly because of Pakistan’s association with terror.

The announcement brings down the curtain on intense speculation in the past few days on whether or not Modi would travel to Islamabad. However, with India repeatedly calling for Pakistan’s isolation, it had become important for Modi to match the rhetoric with some action on the ground. Modi had earlier invested heavily into Saarc for his neighbourhood outreach but the support from Afghanistan and Bangladesh is said to have played a key role in facilitating India’s decision to call off its participation.

Earlier in the day, following up its diplomatic onslaught on Pakistan at the UNGA, India summoned Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit and revealed to him the identity of a slain Uri terrorist and 2 other individuals, who acted as guides to the terrorists in the September 18 terror attack, saying all of them were from Muzaffarabadin Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

While India has maintained all along that the Uri attack was carried out by Pakistanis, Islamabad has responded by saying that the attack was “staged” by Indian forces and called for an international probe into it.

Accusing India of blaming Pakistan without even investigating, Basit is said to have made the same points in the meeting – that Uri was the handiwork of Indian agencies and that there be an international inquiry into the attack. As expected, Jaishankar refused to entertain any talk about probe by a third agency and asked Basit to ensure a probe into the evidence like fingerprints and DNA samples of terrorists which India was willing to provide.

Jaishankar told Basit that one of the slain 4 terrorists had been identified as Hafiz Ahmed (S/o Feroz, resident of village Dharbang in Muzaffarabad). Indian authorities got this information from 2 individuals, both residents of Muzaffarabad, who acted as guides to the terrorists, facilitating their infiltration, and were nabbed by villagers in the Uri sector on September 21.

These individuals were identified as Faisal Hussain Awan(20) and Yasin Khursheed (19). Faisal also revealed to NIA names of 2 handlers of the Uri operation – Mohammed Kabir Awan and Basharat.

In another incident on 23 September 2016,Jaishankar said, a Pakistani national, Abdul Qayoom (resident of Sialkot), was apprehended in Molu sector opposite Pakistan’s Sialkot sector. Qayoom has confessed to undergoing three weeks of training with Lashkar eToiba (LeT) and also donating substantial funds to Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, a front for LeT which is controlled by Hafiz Saeed.

Jaishankar told Basit that India was willing to give Pakistan high commission consular access to all the 3 individuals currently in custody of NIA.

Stating the cross-border terrorism was unacceptable to India, foreign secretary S Jaishankar reiterated India’s offer that Pakistan examine the fingerprints and DNA samples of the 4 terrorists, who stormed the Uri army camp and killed 18 Indian soldiers, to confirm their identity.

Jaishankar summoned Basit after Pakistan said at the UNGA in its reply to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech that the Uri incident had been “designed” to divert attention from India’s “atrocities” in J&K and that such incidents had been “staged” in the past to serve what Pakistan described as India’s tactical and propaganda objectives.

The foreign secretary had earlier summoned Basit on September 20 and offered him fingerprints and DNA samples of the terrorists to allow Islamabad to check if these figured in their national database. The 2 guides, who revealed the identity of one of the terrorists, were apprehended a day later.

The government conveyed to Basit that these apprehensions and subsequent interrogation underlined the cross-border infiltration that was the subject of ? Jaishankar’s previous meeting with Basit.

“We would once again strongly urge the Government of Pakistan to take seriously its commitment not to allow terrorist attacks against India from its soil and territory under its control. Continuing cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan against India are unacceptable,” said an official.

In the meeting on September 20, Jaishankar had told Basit that Pakistan must fulfil its January 2004 commitment in which then Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had assured Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for terrorism against India.

 

Source: Times of India

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