NEW DELHI: India ratcheted up its diplomatic campaign to target Pakistan as a ‘terrorist state’ on Tuesday and the immediate casualty may be Islamabad’s Saarc summit, with Kabul’s envoy in New Delhi not ruling out a boycott.

“We have to make sure that we bring the maximum number of countries and I am sure most South Asian countries are in line with what we think. Therefore, the effort should be comprehensive and we should single out a country that spoils our unity and regional peace,” Afghan Ambassador Dr Shaida Mohammad Abdali told NDTV.

He was asked if India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan should come together to boycott the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit to be held in November.

India has leaned on Bhutan in the past to delay or postpone Saarc summits in its shadow boxing with Pakistan. Given the possibility of a less enthusiastic response from key western nations to its diplomatic campaign to censure Pakistan, a regional showdown may seem an attractive backup.

Afghanistan and Bangladesh are said to have an axe to grind with Pakistan over its alleged harbouring of groups they consider inimical.

Doubts emerge about Saarc summit to be held in Islamabad in November

Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a high-level review meeting in New Delhi where National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and senior intelligence officers were present. This is the third security meeting that the home minister has held in three days, reports say.

In Uri in Jammu and Kashmir, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) received blood and other samples from the bodies of four suspected terrorists, who had attacked the army base on Sunday and killed 18 soldiers before being shot dead in a three-hour gun battle.

Reports said that the army would hand over to the NIA weapons, ammunition, maps and GPS sets the terrorists had carried, as the investigation agency pieces together the identity of the terrorists and retraces the route they allegedly took to infiltrate into India.

Investigators are reported to have found that the markings on weapons and food recovered from the terrorists establish a clear Pakistani link. The NIA would send the GPS sets to the United States to investigate exactly where they came from, reports said.

At a meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed a multi-layered response to the Uri attack with his top minsters and gave the go-ahead to diplomatically isolate Pakistan at all international forums.

Hours later, in a strong message at a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, India told Pakistan to “cleanse itself of terrorists” and said that the freedom that terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin enjoyed in that country showed its “active support for such personalities.”

Foreign Secretary Jaishankar’s presence at Tuesday’s meeting with Home Minister Singh is said to signal India’s plan to keep up the pressure at the diplomatic front. Junior Foreign Minister M.J. Akbar will raise the Uri attack issue at a meeting of foreign ministers in New York on Wednesday.

Mr Jaishankar rushed back from Vienna from where he was scheduled to go straight to New York for the UN General Assembly, where Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to speak on Monday.

She is expected to raise the Uri attack issue in her speech and highlight Pakistan’s alleged role in terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India.

Talking to NDTV about the possibility of a Saarc summit boycott, Mr Abdali said, “Any measure that brings peace, stability and unity to the region should not be ruled out”. He said that all Saarc nations should be consulted on this.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke to Mr Modi in the morning and conveyed his country’s support to India in the aftermath of Sunday’s attack on the Uri army base.

In tough words for Pakistan, Mr Abdali was quoted as saying: “There must be zero tolerance. It must end. We have seen the signs of terrorism becoming much more lethal and very systematic.”

The ambassador said that it was an issue of state-sponsored terrorism. “It is no more an issue of non-state actors that we have been hearing about. Now we have ample proof of state- sponsored terrorism.”

“We have to draw a line between a country that sponsors terrorism and a country that is an ally in the war against terrorism. This difference must be made and should be made immediately,” the envoy said.

Published in Dawn September 21st, 2016


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