With Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi listening, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Thursday listed cross-border terrorism, blocking of connectivity and obstruction of trade as the key challenges confronting SAARC. Jaishankar’s remarks at an informal meeting of SAARC foreign ministers targeted Pakistan for being a spoiler in regional cooperation.
Qureshi, who did not mention Kashmir, later said he highlighted the need to “condemn & oppose unilateral/illegal measures to change status of disputed territories in violation” of UNSC resolutions. “Such unilateral measures run counter to shared objective of #SAARC to create regional amity and cooperation & must be opposed resolutely,” he tweeted.
Sources said one of the agenda items in the SAARC ministerial meeting was the 19th SAARC Summit, which was to be hosted by Pakistan.
Most countries felt it was not an “opportune time” for the event considering that member states are preoccupied in dealing with the Covid-19 situation. So the proposal fell through due to lack of consensus, sources said.
Through the day, Pakistan raised the issue of Kashmir at three different fora, and New Delhi objected to it.
Jaishankar, in his comments on the virtual meeting, said, “Cross-border terrorism, blocking connectivity and obstructing trade are three key challenges that SAARC must overcome. Only then will we see enduring peace, prosperity and security in our South Asia region.”
He urged SAARC member states to collectively resolve to defeat terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict, which impede the objective of SAARC to realise its full potential for collective collaboration and prosperity across South Asia, according to a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.
The meeting, chaired by Nepal, was held in virtual mode and attended by all SAARC member states.
At another forum of foreign ministers—Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures (CICA) in Asia hosted by Kazakhstan — Pakistan raked up the issue of Kashmir.
India hit back, saying that it is “typical of Pakistan” to use multilateral platforms of SAARC and CICA “to raise bilateral and contentious issues”.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said this is “inconsistent with the principles and charter of such organizations and their meetings” but “what else can be expected of a country that indulges in cross-border terrorism as a part of its state policy.”
At CICA, the MEA in its right of reply said: “Pakistan has misused another forum by continuing its spurious narrative about India” and “The Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and will remain an integral part of India. Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal affairs.”
Pakistan also raised the issue of Kashmir at the United Nations Human Rights Council, to which India reacted sharply.
Vimarsh Aryan, First Secretary at the UN in Geneva, said: “In these… times when everyone is putting on a mask for the safety of fellow human beings, Pakistan is using another kind of pernicious mask to masquerade as a champion of human rights…”