NEW DELHI: Reports that Pakistan will 'invite' Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit evoked shrugs and a smile in New Delhi.
Addressing a conference on Kashmir in Islamabad Tuesday, Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said Modi would be invited to the annual summit, which has been dead in the water since 2016 after India pulled out following September 18 attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri by four Pakistani terrorists, who killed 19 soldiers before being gunned down. Subsequently Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan also pulled out.
Claiming that the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor, which would allow Sikh pilgrims visa-free travel to the gurdwara in Pakistan, was a "great success story" for Pakistan, Faisal admitted that -"We fought a war with India, relations cannot be fixed quickly.-" Dr Faisal said.
"Unless there has been some back channel decision, it is highly unlikely that Modi will attend," said former foreign secretary Shashank. Noting that the US too is exerting pressure on Pakistan on terror, he said while the other lower level SAARC talks would continue, Modi was unlikely to attend the summit, which is only for the heads of states or governments.
"Last time Modi said he was not going. I'd be surprised if he goes this time," concurred former ambassador and Lt Governor of Andamanan and Nicobar islands and Puducherry Nagendra Nath Jha. "SAARC is doomed in any case. That's why we started the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and Bangladesh, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative," he said.
"When the chief minister of Punjab refuses to attend the Kartapur corridor opening in Pakistan citing terror, do you seriously think the Prime minister will attend an event in Pakistan?" asked another official. "Invitations are easy. It is up to our Prime Minister to accept or decline," he smiled.
SAARC member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.