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Indian Security Concerns, Displeasure with Nepal Delay South Asian Summit

  • Patricia Nunan

India's prime minister will not attend a summit of the South Asian Association Regional Conference because of concerns about security in Bangladesh - a move that caused the summit to be postponed. Indian officials also cited displeasure with Nepalese King Gyanendra, who suspended democratic government in his country this week, and who was due to attend the summit.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Sarin says his government has officially informed Bangladesh that it will not attend the South Asian Association Regional Conference summit. Mr. Sarin says India is concerned about recent violence in Bangladesh, where the meeting of the organization, known as SAARC, was due to take place.

"This decision has been taken against the background of recent developments in our neighborhood which have caused us grave concern," he said. "The security situation in Dhaka has deteriorated in recent days, following the fatal attack on the former finance minister of Bangladesh."

India is also unhappy with the political situation in Nepal. Tuesday, Nepal's King Gyanendra took over the government, placing political leaders under house arrest and virtually severing communications with the outside world.

The king said he took these steps because political leaders had failed to end a long-running rebellion by Maoist insurgents, who have been fighting to overthrow the monarchy for the past nine years. Analysts said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not want to confer legitimacy on the king's actions by sharing a platform with him in Dhaka.

Foreign Secretary Sarin reiterated India's condemnation of the king's actions. "Our constant refrain has been that the two pillars of stability, political stability in Nepal are constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy," he said. "We have also advised him against taking the kind of step that he has taken, pointing out that this will only mean that the monarchy will be in direct confrontation not only with the Maoist insurgency, but with the political parties."

King Gyanendra named a 10-member cabinet that he says will rule Nepal for the next three years. The takeover has prompted condemnation from governments around the world, including that of the United States.

A series of bombings have taken place in Bangladesh during the past year, including the bomb that killed the former finance minister last month. India has requested fresh dates for the SAARC summit, to be decided jointly with member states Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

This is the second time the summit has been delayed. It was originally scheduled for early January, but was postponed following the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

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