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Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 10:56 GMT

World: South Asia

Coup could affect regional summit

The coup may mean postponing the Saarc meeting

By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

India has indicated that it wants the forthcoming summit meeting of the South Asian regional organisation, Saarc, postponed in view of the last month's military coup in Pakistan.

Pakistan in crisis
The eleventh summit meeting of the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) is scheduled to be held later this month in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

The Indian Ambassador to Nepal, K V Rajan, conveyed his country's desire for the postponement of the summit to the Nepalese Foreign Minister, Ram Sharan Mahat.

A spokesman for the Indian embassy in Kathmandu told the BBC that India endorsed what he described as the feeling of other member countries that the timing of the summit is not appropriate.

Concern over coup

Although the spokesman did not elaborate, this has come in the wake of growing speculation that the summit may be affected by last month's military coup in Pakistan.

[ image: General Musharraf: Not welcomed by his neighbours]
General Musharraf: Not welcomed by his neighbours
Most members of the Saarc including India had expressed concern over the coup.

They hope that democracy will soon be restored in Pakistan.

In its 15-year history, the summit has been postponed twice - in 1990 and 1992.

The Nepalese authorities say that they have not received request in writing from any member country to postpone the summit.

A senior foreign ministry official said that as a host country, Nepal would like to have a formal written request before making a final decision on the fate of the summit.

He said that consultation with other members is continuing.

Summit may face boycott

Written request or not, under the Saarc charter, the summit cannot take place if a member decides to stay away.

[ image:  ]
The summit, if held on schedule, will bring India's Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Pakistan's new ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, together for a face-to-face meeting for the first time since Pakistan's military coup.

Saarc has been criticised for slow progress in regional co-operation and critics say this is because of the strained relations between the two biggest countries and nuclear powers of the region, India and Pakistan.

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