Can’t skip Saarc summit if there isn’t one: Sri Lanka clarifies to parliament

Jayanth Jacob, New Delhi: The Sri Lankan government on Friday said there was no question of pulling out when

there was “no summit to attend,” as it came under attack from the opposition for boycotting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit to be held in Islamabad in November.
“There was no question of pulling out when there was no summit to attend,” foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera told Parliament.
“As the members of this House are aware, the general provisions of the charters of the Saarc prescribe that the decisions at all levels shall be taken on the basis of unanimity. Therefore the moment one country says they are unable to attend the summit, a summit cannot be held,” the minister said.
“Therefore, there was no question of Sri Lanka pulling out of the summit.”
Samaraweera said the Lankan statement was released only after several countries had issued statements with their intention to pull out.
“We will take part (in the summit) whenever it happens,” he said.
The opposition hit out at the government, saying Sri Lanka was staying out of the summit to please India while hurting Pakistan. In response, Samaraweera said the South Asian region must unite against terrorism.
“Terrorism must unite our region not divide it,” he said while inviting the region’s leadership to forget the past and unite against terrorism.
Read | Cross-border terrorism core issue for Saarc nations: Sri Lankan PM
On September 30, Sri Lanka issued a statement that said it regretted that conditions were not conducive for holding the Summit. It came after India opted out, followed by Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
“Sri Lanka regrets that the prevailing environment in the region is not conducive for holding the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad,” the foreign ministry statement read.
On the same day, Pakistan had postponed the SAARC Summit to be held in Islamabad on November 9 and 10.
Citing continuous cross border terrorism by Pakistan, India had announced last month that “in the prevailing circumstances, the Indian government is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad.”
SAARC member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.