Bhutan hosts the 16th South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation summit for the first time. Security around the region's leaders will be heavy because of concerns about the Communist Party of Bhutan, which seeks to overthrow the newly-elected government. Nepali immigrants form the core of the insurgency. Under Bhutan's one nation, one people policy, many of the minority Nepalese were stripped of Bhutan citizenship and expelled to camps, and their grievances feed the insurgency.
Bhutan hosts the 16th South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) summit for the first time. Security around the region's leaders will be heavy because of concerns about the Communist Party of Bhutan, which seeks to overthrow the newly-elected government. Nepali immigrants form the core of the insurgency. Under Bhutan's "one nation, one people" policy, many of the minority Nepalese were stripped of Bhutan citizenship and expelled to camps, and their grievances feed the insurgency. Some of Bhutan's Nepalese have become refugees in other countries under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The expatriates could use the international attention on the summit to air their grievances with Bhutan's government. The Bhutan's SAARC summit is the first South Asian multi-lateral forum meeting after the Mumbai 26/11 attacks on India. India will use the summit as a leverage to put pressures on its neighbors, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, to dismantle the infrastructure for terrorism, including actions to be taken against non-state actors harboring extremist sentiments. According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, Nepal will push for an effective regional mechanism to cope with climate change. Bangladesh and Maldives are likely to support Nepal' s effort to set up a regional body, as both the countries will face the most drastic effects of climate change. The summit will be a test for India's push to establish its own Monroe Doctrine, particularly in relation to its biggest neighbor, China, an observer nation at the 16th SAARC summit. India -- the largest country in South East Asia -- cites the 19th Century Monroe Doctrine of then-US president James Monroe to justify intervention in hotspots around the Indian periphery. The Indian security establishment believes that the United States' operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot succeed without India's active co-operation, at least when it comes to nation-building in Afghanistan. Similarly, India wishes to be an active participant in Washington's nuclear talks with Iran and any overtures to Myanmar. Iran is an observer nation in SAARC. Afghanistan became a SAARC member in 2007. The representation of SAARC as major regional block is increasing and is rivaling the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), African Union and European Union. China has sought to become a member of SAARC, besides four other countries - Mauritius, Iran, Australia and Myanmar. This will be the first time that Bhutan will hold a conference attended by eight heads of governments -- Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives. Bhutan had skipped the opportunity to host the SAARC summit three times on the ground of the country's infrastructure. The summit is also important for Bhutan since it is actually obligatory for each member state to host the summit. The 2010 summit was actually Maldives's turn to host. SAARC was formed in 1985 with seven members -- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. Afghanistan became its eighth member during the 14th SAARC summit. UPDATED Apr 2010 STORYSUPPLIED BY NEWSAHEAD CORRESPONDENT C.BALAJI, WHO IS AVAILABLE FOR FREELANCE ASSIGNMENTS IN INDIA AND THE REGION. email: [email protected]
Date written/update: 2010-04-28