Pakistan Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be invited to Islamabad for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, Dawn reported. The previous summit in 2016 was cancelled after India backed out following the terrorist attack on an Army camp in Uri where 19 soldiers died.
The last summit of the leaders of the eight SAARC countries was convened in Kathmandu in late 2014. Recalling Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two, Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal pitched for dialogue with New Delhi to solve all contentious issues.
“We fought a war with India, relations cannot be fixed quickly,” Faisal said. So far, India’s refusal to engage Pakistan unless Islamabad addressed its concerns on cross-border terrorism has remained a sticky issue for holding the 19th SAARC summit.
SAARC Summits are usually held biennially hosted by a member state in alphabetical order. The member state hosting the summit assumes the Chair of the Association. Besides India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the 2016 Islamabad meet. The Maldives and Sri Lanka are the seventh and eighth members of the initiative.
Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said cross-border terrorism was a hurdle towards proceeding with the SAARC summit. “PM Modi mentioned that he very enthusiastically participated in the Kathmandu (SAARC) summit, but given the current state of play where there is cross-border terrorism – and this is a disruptive force in the region. It is difficult in such circumstances to proceed with such initiatives,” Gokhale had told reporters.
In his inaugural speech at the Kathmandu summit, Modi stressed for closer regional cooperation between SAARC countries and suggested five pillars for achieving that goal. “For India, our vision for the region rests on five pillars — trade, investment, assistance, cooperation in every area, contacts between our people — and, all through seamless connectivity,” Modi said.