Days after Pakistan’s Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reiterated Islamabad’s offer to host the long-pending summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), India on Thursday said that there has been no material change in the situation since 2014 and there is no consensus that would allow the holding of the summit.
On Monday, Qureshi had said that India could attend the meet virtually if it does not wish to participate in-person.
Responding to questions at a briefing, the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “We have seen media reports regarding the Pakistan foreign minister’s remark about the summit… you are aware of the background as to why the summit has not been held since 2014. There has been no material change in the situation. Therefore, there is still no consensus that would permit the holding of the summit.”
The 19th SAARC Summit was scheduled in Islamabad in November 2016 but was cancelled after New Delhi and other SAARC countries, including Afghanistan had boycotted over the Uri terror attack that took place on September 18, 2016.
Earlier this week, Qureshi had said: “Unfortunately, India has made this forum dysfunctional because of its stubbornness. They are not ready to come to Islamabad, they are hesitant.”
“Because of India’s obstinacy, this forum is suffering. If India does not want to come, then new means are available. I reiterate our invitation to all SAARC members and Pakistan is willing to host the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad. If India doesn’t want to come, they can attend virtually. If they (India) have problems coming here physically, they can attend virtually but they shouldn’t stop others. They should let others come and not affect this forum,” the Pakistan foreign minister had said.
SAARC works on the principle of consensus and the summit cannot be held if even one member decides not to attend.
On Pakistan raising the issue of Kashmir and human rights violations there, the MEA spokesperson said that Pakistan had hosted Osama Bin Laden and it’s record on human rights is well known.