India has no reason to restart the South Asian forum at this point

A Pakistani foreign office announcement that it would ‘invite’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a SAARC summit in Islamabad has been dismissed by India. It will be recalled that Pakistan is slated to host the next SAARC summit. However, the process has been on hold since 2016 when India refused to participate after the Uri terror attack and was supported in its decision by Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan. Plus, under the SAARC mechanism, Pakistan can’t unilaterally invite anyone. All member states have to agree to a date for the SAARC summit and only then can official invitations be sent.

In any case, it is highly unlikely that India will agree to a SAARC summit at this point when New Delhi and Islamabad have still not resumed official communication. True, the two sides have agreed to develop the Kartarpur corridor on their respective sides. But this by itself isn’t enough to resume talks. India’s position has been that dialogue and Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism can’t go hand in hand. There’s nothing to suggest that Islamabad has taken any measures to address New Delhi’s concerns.

This is precisely why over the last few years India has been concentrating its efforts on sub-regional forums such as BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). Pakistan’s desire to restart the SAARC process now may be because of two factors. First, Pakistan could be seeking to paint India as obstinate in an attempt to gain international sympathy for itself. And second, Pakistan perhaps sees the resumption of SAARC as a way to obtain strategic leverage at a time when it is being shunned by the West while China is increasingly tightening its grip over it.

Either way, there is little that India can gain by agreeing to restart SAARC at this point. Following the Kartarpur Corridor, it is best to adopt a wait and watch policy.