Sources told this newspaper that the Saarc foreign ministers’ meeting was on schedule.
New Delhi: Even though India had last week called off a scheduled bilateral meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the two foreign ministers are nevertheless expected to be part of a multilateral Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) foreign ministers’ meeting in New York on Thursday. Sources told this newspaper that the Saarc foreign ministers’ meeting was on schedule.
India had last Friday called off the scheduled bilateral meeting between Ms. Swaraj and Mr. Qureshi citing “the latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of twenty postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a (slain) terrorist (Burhan Wani) and terrorism”.
Nevertheless, the Saarc meeting provides a forum for the two foreign ministers along with foreign ministers of the other Saarc countries—-Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Maldives—-to at least discuss multilateral south Asian issues as part of Saarc.
Saarc has virtually been in cold storage due to Indo-Pak tensions. It may also be recalled that the 19th Saarc Summit, which was scheduled to have been held in Islamabad in 2016, was “indefinitely postponed” after India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan among others pulled out of the event. India had then cited cross-border terrorism as the reason for pulling out of the summit after the Pathankot and Uri terror attacks. However, Pakistan remains extremely keen on resumption of the Saarc process and for the next SAARC summit to be held in its capital.