NEW YORK: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has accused India of being an obstacle in promoting regional cooperation through the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a body established to bring prosperity to the peoples of the region.
“The attitude of only one country is hindering the spirit and objectives of the SAARC,” he told reporters after participating in an informal meeting of SAARC’s Council of Ministers held on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly taking place in New York.
Asked whether he spoke to his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj at the meeting, the Pakistani foreign minister said he did not.
“She left the meeting midway. May be she was not feeling well,” he said.
“She (Swaraj) talked about regional cooperation at the meeting. My question is that how is regional cooperation possible if the nations in the region are ready to sit down and you are the obstacle in those talks,” he said.
Qureshi said the SAARC has not been able to set a date for its next summit to gear the organization towards implementing initiatives aimed at the betterment of the people of the region. India was resisting the holding of summit until there was, what it called, a “conducive environment”. “Now who would decide what ‘conducive environment’ means– it has different meaning for different people,” he said.
(In his formal statement at the meeting, the foreign minister said, “Pakistan remains ready to hold the SAARC summit, at any date agreed to by the SAARC member states.)
“Unless we meet and talks, how can we make any progress,” he said while talking to reporters.
Pakistan, the foreign minister said, wants SAARC to make substantive progress and turn it into a”result-oriented” body.
“If we want to gain something from this forum, we have to move forward. The way to move forward is to decide the next meeting. I have no hesitation to say that the attitude of one country is blocking the progress of SAARC. One country is not letting SAARC function”, he added.
Asked whether the issue of terrorism was raised by Afghanistan and Bangladesh at the meeting, FM Qureshi said that they did not.
The remarks came days after cancellation by India of the proposed talks between Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers in New York.
Earlier, speaking at the SAARC meeting, the foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to SAARC’s principles and objectives and highlighted the Organization’s potential for promoting progress and prosperity in South Asia. He stressed that Pakistan considered SAARC an important platform for organizing a collective response to regional challenges, particularly the region’s development needs.
The Foreign Minister emphasized that one country was holding the 1.7 billion people of South Asia hostage, while making vague statements and unsubstantiated, whimsical allegations. The SAARC summit has already been delayed by two years, with no end in sight.
Pakistan, he said, continued to insist that there was no alternate to communication, engagement and dialogue, and the attempt to scuttle the SAARC process, was actually the major impediment in ensuring the prosperity, eliminating poverty and instituting development for the peoples of the region.
He also pointed out that there was a general positivity within the rest of the membership to move forward on the holding of the summit, but one country was unnecessarily enacting hurdles and obstacles for its narrow gains.—NNI