New Delhi: After the recent successful BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu and with the regional grouping gaining prominence in the wake of a virtually defunct Saarc, Pakistan may intensify efforts for a meeting of foreign ministers/representatives of Saarc countries including India attending the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.
Whether such a move will materialise in New York remains to be seen, given that India and Pakistan are expected to once again have a sharp exchange of words over Kashmir at the UN Gen-eral Assembly. With a new Government in charge in Pakistan, and its foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi expected to represent it, Islamabad is certain to rake up the Kashmir issue in a major way. New Delhi is expected to hit back with its response.
Pakistan remains extremely keen on resumption of the Saarc process and for the next Saarc summit to be held in its capital city Islamabad. However, India is in no mood to oblige as it wants concrete actions by Pakistan to rein in terrorists operating from Pakistani soil.
Government sources had said a few months ago that India “does not contemplate any Saarc summit” in the near future as Pakistan continues its policy of being actively involved in sponsoring cross-border terrorism. Sources had then said that “one country” — an obvious reference to Pakistan — continues its policy of sponsoring terror. Islam-abad was also seen to be opposing connectivity initiatives within Saarc.
It may be recalled that the South Asian grouping Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) was described last year by the then foreign secretary S. Jaishankar as a “jammed” vehicle. 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.
Diplomatic sources told this newspaper that despite tensions over Kashmir, India and Pakistan are continuing with humanitarian gestures such as release of each others’ prisoners including fishermen, claiming that the two countries are also exploring ways for “deeper engagement”.