South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, is deeply concerned about the postponement of the 19th South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan in November 2016. We understand that this is due to the decision made by the Prime Minister of India not to attend the Summit. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh too has conveyed her decision not to attend the summit. Reportedly, both these nations have backed out due to Pakistan’s alleged involvement in cross border terrorist attacks in the region and its interference in internal affairs of other countries. Afghanistan and Bhutan may also not participate in the Summit. The SAARC charter stipulates that the Summit will be automatically postponed or cancelled if a member country does not attend the event.
SAARC is the only state level body in the region. SAARC has been instrumental in developing cooperation among the 8 member states mostly on trade and culture. Even though it has not handled bi-lateral issues specifically, SAARC has provided valuable forum for member countries to deal with issues of concern to them. Therefore, SAHR would like to call upon the SAARC member states to recognise the importance of SAARC for fostering cooperation among member states. SAHR would also like to strongly state the importance of collaboration and cooperation among states in maintaining peace and harmony in South Asia. SAHR urges India and Pakistan to engage in dialogue and also ensure that SAARC is not weakened by their actions.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights
Dr. Nimalka Fernando