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  India   All India  29 Sep 2018  Sushma Swaraj avoids Qureshi by leaving meet midway

Sushma Swaraj avoids Qureshi by leaving meet midway

Published : Sep 29, 2018, 2:25 am IST
Updated : Sep 29, 2018, 2:25 am IST

Ms Swaraj’s early exit from the venue ensured that she had no interaction with Mr Qureshi.

Sushma Swaraj
 Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: In a huge snub to Pakistan, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj left midway a meeting of the Saarc foreign ministers, including her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, amidst fresh chill in bilateral ties.

In her address before leaving the informal interaction held in New York on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly, she ruled out a Saarc summit any time soon due to terror concerns, a comment which evoked an angry response from Pakistan later in the day.

The mood was intensely frosty between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers at the meeting and Ms Swaraj’s early exit from the venue ensured that she had no interaction with Mr Qureshi.

While Indian officials cited her other engagements as the reason for her leaving the meeting midway, her early exit seemed intended at sending a strong message to Pakistan in the light of last week’s decision by New Delhi to call off a meeting between Ms Swaraj and Mr Qureshi in New York.

Initially, India had accepted a suggestion from Pakistan for the foreign minister-level interaction on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly but New Delhi later called off the meeting citing the brutal killings of three policemen in Jam-mu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing pos-tage stamps “glorifying” slain Kashmiri militant

Burhan Wani.After making her statement on Thursday, Ms Sushma left the meeting early, evoking criticism from Mr Qureshi, who later told reporters, “No I didn’t have any talk with her (Swaraj). On the positive gesture, I can say she left the meeting midway, may be she was not feeling well.”

Indian diplomatic sources said that it was quite normal in a multilateral meeting to leave early after one has delivered the country’s statement.

Sources said that Ms Swaraj was not the first minister to leave the meeting as her counterparts from Afghanistan and Bangladesh had also left before her.

In her statement at the meeting chaired by Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Ms Swaraj pointing out, in a veiled reference to Islamabad, that “terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in our region” and that “it is necessary that we end the ecosystem of its support”.

In another veiled barb at Pakistan which is seen to be resisting Saarc connectivity initiatives, including movement of people and goods, Ms. Swaraj said, “Saarc needs to deliver on its commitments or risk being left behind.”

Spelling out India’s stand, Ms. Swaraj said, “An environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation to progress and achieve economic development and prosperity of our people. The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia’s are on the rise. Terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in our region, and indeed in the world. It is necessary that we eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination, and end the ecosystem of its support.”

“South Asia region has the potential to be the front-runner of growth and prosperity and is one of the fastest growing regions of the world. But the true potential of the region can be realised only if all countries contribute constructively towards delivering on the commitments Saarc has made to the people of the region,” she added.

A furious Pakistan hit back by issuing a statement that said, “The foreign minister (Qureshi) emphasised 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 continues to insist that there is 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.”

Tags: sushma swaraj, saarc foreign ministers