Reports indicating that Bangladesh has declined to attend the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation summit in Islamabad in November emerged on Wednesday, NDTV reported. The news channel quoted unnamed officials, who said that Dhaka's decision is a reaction to "increased interference in Bangladesh's internal affairs". The development follows India's announcement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the meet. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs had cited increased cross-border attacks as the reason for its decision.
The absence of member countries could force the postponement of the summit as association rules make it mandatory for all participants to be present, The Indian Express reported. As a regional powerhouse, India holds a significant amount of leverage within the association. ANI had reported that Afghanistan and Bhutan may pull out of the regional meeting as well.Dhaka officials are believed to have reaffirmed their commitment to Saarc, an association the country co-founded, but it had informed the association's chairperson in Nepal that the "environment was not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th Saarc summit".
The English daily quoted a Pakistani official on India's decision: "While we have not received any official communication in this regard, the Indian announcement is unfortunate… We will continue to work to that end in the larger interest of the people in this region."
The decision comes as India's relations with Pakistan have worsened, following the militant attack on an Army camp in Uri, Kashmir which left 18 soldiers dead. On Monday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had come down heavily on Pakistan for its reported links with terror groups in its country, while on Tuesday, India held a meeting on the Indus Waters Treaty that it signed with the neighbouring country in 1960. Pakistan has also alleged that India has committed humans rights violations in Kashmir since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on July 8.