Phuket summit meeting postponed

BANGKOK (The Nation): The inaugural summit of five Asian nations scheduled to take place next month in Phuket has been postponed indefinitely after India’s Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, canceled due to internal politics. Mr Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party is gearing up for general elections in April or May. A new date for the summit of the five leaders of the Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) forum will be fixed when India is ready, the Thai Foreign Ministry said. “After consultation with other leaders, we all agreed not to proceed with the summit without India, which is deemed an important element of Bimstec,” said ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow. However, meetings of senior officials, economic and commerce ministers and foreign ministers of the group will still go ahead from February 6 to 8 in Phuket, the spokesman said. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made the decision to postpone the summit after he received a call from New Delhi that Vajpayee was unable to visit Thailand. “As it is the first Bimstec summit, we want all leaders to attend in their full capacity,” Sihasak said. Thailand hopes the summit can still be held on a date to be fixed through diplomatic channels, perhaps later this year, the spokesman said. Officials said the lower-level meeting in February would highlight cooperation in transport and tourism, enabling South Asian nations, notably India, to become more engaged with Southeast Asia.

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