NEW DELHI: India’s efforts to ensure “complete isolation" of Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack may face hurdle at its immediate neighbourhood, with all the eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) unlikely to reach a consensus on either a temporary or permanent suspension of Pakistan from the grouping.
Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale on Friday briefed ambassadors of the south Asian neighbours, except Pakistan, on the evolving situation after Thursday’s terror attack.
However, a government official, requesting anonymity, said since decisions at the Saarc are taken by consensus, it is unlikely that India will be able to convince all the members to take action against Pakistan. “India is looking at a statement from Saarc countries to denounce terrorism from countries in the region. It would be difficult to find support to suspend Pakistan from the grouping."
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said it will be difficult for India to get the support of countries like Nepal where Pakistan has a large diplomatic mission. “The latest deterioration in Indo-Pak relationship would ensure that a new government after the general election will not be in a hurry to make a fresh beginning with Pakistan," he added. While Nepal has been supporting Pakistan’s bid to include China in Saarc, Sri Lanka has a defence partnership with Pakistan.
Pakistan was temporarily suspended in 2007 from the membership of the Commonwealth grouping after the then president General Pervez Musharraf did not work towards restoration of democracy in the country.
“India should seek support of other member countries to temporarily suspend Pakistan from SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) to begin with, and then at the larger Saarc context," Biswajit Dhar, professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said.
After a deadly terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016, India had decided not to participate in the 19th Saarc summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad. The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to take part. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal in November last year said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be invited to Pakistan for the Saarc summit, dates for which were yet to be finalized.
On Saturday, India raised duties on imports from Pakistan by 200%, a day after it had withdrawn the most favoured nation status to Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack.
In a notification, the revenue department said the government is satisfied that import duties levied on goods originating in or exported from Pakistan should be raised and that circumstances exist, which render it necessary to take immediate action.
The Dawn newspaper reported on Friday that Pakistan is studying options, including further expanding the negative list of items of 1,209 products currently it does not allow India to export to Pakistan.