Thu, 01 Oct 2020

New Delhi [India], Sep 17 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is about regional cooperation and cross-border terrorism is an impediment to objectives of cooperation.

Jaishankar, who was addressing a press conference here on the performance of his ministry's first 100 days under his leadership, said, "SAARC is all about regional cooperation. You need trade, connectivity, and specifically no terrorism. If you to look at the future of SAARC, it is very much clear who is leading the process and who is impeding it."Both neighbours have agreed to participate in the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting at Foreign Minister level scheduled to be held on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting that is being chaired by Nepal in New York next month.

India and Pakistan have already sent their concurrence to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat in Kathmandu, the officials added.

Though the meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers is an annual affair and usually takes place on the sidelines of the UNGA, this time there were speculations it might not happen due to escalating diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of New Delhi's historic move of abrogating Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Regarding his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the External Affairs Minister in his briefing said that "we will see what happens then".

Addressing the issue of Pakistan exporting terrorists across its borders to conduct attacks in the region, Jaishankar said, "We hope to build a better, stronger neighbourhood but recognising that we have a unique challenge from one neighbour," in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

"Until the issue of cross border terrorism is successfully addressed and that neighbour becomes a normal neighbour that would remain a challenge," he said.

The 18th SAARC summit was held in Kathmandu in 2014 and Pakistan was to host the next summit in 2016.

The 19th SAARC Summit failed to take place since India decided to pull out of it in 2016 following a terrorist attack in Uri, Kashmir, which killed 19 people.

Other countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, also walked out following India's decision to exit the summit to step up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

India, the largest member of SAARC forum, has said it will participate in future summits if Pakistan took steps to tackle terrorism.

The External Affairs Minister noted, "I always ask other people show me anywhere else in the world where any country conducts terrorism openly against its neighbour as part of what it considers its foreign policy.""We must make the world realise," Jaishankar stressed. (ANI)

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