If you cannot attend in person, you can participate virtually: Pakistan has invited India to the 19th SAARC summit

Islamabad: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday that his country is ready to host the 19th SAARC Summit and that India can participate virtually if the New Delhi leadership is unwilling to visit Islamabad.

Qureshi, speaking at a press conference to highlight the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ achievements in 2021, accused India of making SAARC dysfunctional by refusing to come to Islamabad for the Summit meeting.

“I reiterate the invitation for the 19th SAARC summit. If India is not ready to come to Islamabad, it can join virtually, but it should not stop others from attending the moot,” he said.

SAARC, a regional organization comprised of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, has been ineffective since 2016, with no biennial summits held since the last one in Kathmandu in 2014.

The 2016 SAARC Summit was originally scheduled to take place in Islamabad from November 15 to November 19, 2016. However, following a terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, on September 18, that year, India stated that it would be unable to attend the summit due to “prevailing circumstances.”

The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan declined to attend the meeting in Islamabad.

Noting that relations with India had not changed by 2021, Qureshi blamed the alleged dominance of “Hindutva thinking” in India for sabotaging the prospects of good relations between the two countries.

“Unfortunately, ties with India were severed in 2021. In our opinion, aggressive Hindutva behavior in recent years has harmed the potential of regional cooperation “He stated.

He stated that Pakistan desired peaceful relations with all of its neighbors, including India, but that it was India’s responsibility to improve relations.

According to Qureshi, peace with India is not possible unless the Kashmir issue is resolved.

Bilateral relations deteriorated after India withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s special powers and divided the state into two union territories in August 2019.

India has expressed its desire for normal neighborly relations with Islamabad in an atmosphere free of terror, hostility, and violence.

Qureshi spoke at length about Pakistan’s ties with the rest of the world, concluding that political, economic, and diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, including the United States, Russia, and China, improved last year.

Qureshi emphasized that relations with Bangladesh were improving and that Prime Minister Imran Khan had met with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina.

He stated that Khan invited Hasina to visit Pakistan and that Hasina also invited him to visit Bangladesh.

In response to a question about the alleged “Cold War” between China and the United States, he stated that Pakistan’s policy is clear and that Islamabad will not become a “part of any camp.”

In response to another question about the removal of border fencing by Taliban forces, he stated that Pakistan carried out the fencing work and was aware of the most recent incidents (of its removal), adding that “Afghanistan is our friend, and we will be able to resolve it.”

Qureshi’s comments on the SAARC Summit came after Pakistan Prime Minister Khan expressed hope last month that his country would host the long-delayed meeting once the “artificial obstacle” that had been placed in its way was removed.

Khan made the remarks during a meeting with Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), who paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister here.

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