UNITED NATIONS -Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly sessions, the diplomatic flare-up between India and Pakistan reached ahead on Thursday as the latter’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi failed to turn up for Jaishankar’s opening statement during the SAARC meeting.
He arrived only after Jaishankar had left the room and said that his country will not engage with India “until and unless they lift the siege” in Kashmir. When pressed further on his late arrival, Qureshi said he does not want to sit with the Indian minister as a mark of protest over Kashmir.
After the SAARC meeting, Jaishankar tweeted saying that the elimination of terrorism in all its forms is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of the South Asian region.
“Ours is really not just a story of missed opportunities but also of deliberate obstacles. Terrorism is among them. In our view, elimination of terrorism in all its forms is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of our region itself,” Jaishankar said on Twitter.
Jaishankar had, however, refused to comment on the absence of his Pakistani counterpart during his opening statement.
Tensions between the two countries have spiked since India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August. The decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian ambassador.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.
SAARC is the regional grouping in Asia comprising India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Last year, the then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj left the room after her statement at the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting amid tensions between the two countries following the killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing postage stamps “glorifying” a slain Kashmiri militant.
The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after a deadly attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir in September that year, India expressed its inability to participate due to “prevailing circumstances”.
The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.
SAARC summits are usually held biennially and hosted by a member state in alphabetical order. The last SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu.