Speaking at a public rally in Kerala, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to “isolate” Pakistan, whatever that might mean. We may be seeing the first – and relatively tame – attempt at that goal, which comes at the cost of mutual regional development.

The upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be held in Islamabad is in limbo. India has left in bluster, and has taken a clutch of countries with it – namely Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan. The diminished summit, if it happens, is expected to achieve little. This was expected of India, but Afghanistan’s lack of tact and open hostility is the most disappointing.

This “isolation” achieves little still. It does nothing to harm Pakistan in a material way; SAARC was never Pakistan’s project nor does the cancelation of its summit in Islamabad incur tangible harm. Additionally, SAARC is toothless as it works on consensus. Without a unanimous vote, no deal can be made. When India is in the mix, there is no scope for cooperation anyway. Missing the meeting only serves to score a symbolic victory at a forum which has the sole purpose to be a drawing room for networking and PR. It does not matter to Pakistan if India wants to be counted here or not. Yet, it may still have served as an excellent platform on which leaders can come together and exchange stances, removed from the noise and the din of the masses – which are unfortunately stuffed with hawks and ultra-nationalists.

Additionally, this orchestrated withdrawal solidifies the pre-existing rifts in the subcontinent by pitting Bangladesh and Afghanistan against Pakistan. Sabotaging a neutral summit which might have benefited the region forces states not part of the Pakistan-India wrangle to pick a side – something that will be diplomatically difficult to avoid.

These are not the actions of a regional power with pretensions to global leadership, but the actions of a petty, vengeful state that will take everyone down with it to score a political point. Here was a chance for the region to undertake an exercise in diplomacy and de-escalation. But India chooses escalation yet again. And while the actions of India can be understood in context to its hyper-violent nationalists and the narrative of “isolation” and “befitting response”, the actions of Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have followed India blindly down this path of zero-sum politics are the ones that deserve the most condemnation. By staying in the summit despite Indian pressure, these states could have asserted the multi-faceted nature of South Asia and the inevitability of regional peace and cooperation. Now, once more, South Asia is Pakistan vs India, and a mini Cold War has begun.