New Delhi: The maxim ‘Once bitten twice shy’ does not seem to work with Pakistani establishment and more particularly the foreign policy engine room.
India also made it clear to its western neighbour that once adequate steps are taken in Pakistan to counter-terror and erase the training centres and hideouts.
“This will enable the two countries to engage and address issues bilaterally…..,” MEA said.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s proposal Foreign Ministers meeting to discuss the 19th SAARC Summit (pending since 2016) “fell through due to lack of consensus”.
At an informal virtual meet of SAARC foreign ministers hosted by Nepal, Dr Jaishankar spoke about “forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict”.
“Cross-border terrorism, blocking connectivity and obstructing trade are three key challenges that SAARC must overcome. Only then will we see enduring peace, prosperity and security in our South Asia region,” he tweeted.
If these were not enough, MEA spokesman Anurag Srivastava sounded more bitter and said: “What else can be expected of a country that indulges in cross-border terrorism as a part of its state policy.”
He was answering questions on Pakistan raising the issue of Kashmir at SAARC also meet at the virtual CICA Special Ministerial Meeting.”It is very typical of Pakistan to use such fora to raise bilateral and contentious issues which is inconsistent with the principles and charter of such organisations and their meetings,” he said.
Sources said in Delhi that – “One of the agenda items in the SAARC Ministerial meeting was the 19th SAARC Summit, which was to be hosted by Pakistan. Most countries felt that it was not a suitable time for the event considering that member states are preoccupied in dealing with COVID-19 situation. So the proposal fell through due to lack of consensus”.
To register protest against the Uri terror attack in 2016, India had first announced the boycott of the SAARC Summit – that Islamabad was to host – alleging Pakistan’s involvement in the attack. At a later stage, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives also pulled out resulting in an indefinite postponement of the summit.
Only this year on March 15 after the personal initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, top leaders held a virtual meeting on Covid19 situations.
In fact, after Thursday’s meeting, Nepal foreign ministry in a statement said the participating ministers “appreciated the initiative of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India in convening the SAARC Leaders’ Video Conference on COVID-19 in March this year”.
Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali played host to the event.
About his participation in Thursday’s virtual meet, Pakistani Minister Qureshi issued a series of tweets and said, “I restated Pakistan’s willingness to host the 19th SAARC Summit…”.
Of course, informally the foreign ministers have been meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. (UNGA) in New York.
In 2019, Pakistan foreign minister Qureshi, a known hardliner in Indo-Pak relations, had arrived late at the SAARC’s Council of Ministers meeting and came only after Dr Jaishankar had made his speech and left the venue.
The last SAARC Summit was hosted by Nepal in November 2014 when Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif had attended the same.
In 2018, the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, now deceased, had snubbed Pakistan when told the meeting that the terrorism was the single most massive threat to peace and stability in South Asia.
She had immediately left the meeting venue after her remarks and did not have any exchange of words with the Pakistani minister.
Lately, Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence director general Lt Gen Faiz Hameed discussed the prospects of giving Gilgit-Baltistan the status of a province in a meeting with the opposition alliance leaders.
MEA spokesman Srivastava at the virtual weekly media briefing fielded a question on the subject and said: “We have seen statements by the Pakistani leadership and media reports in this regard. Any action by Pakistan to alter the status of the militarily occupied so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan” has no legal basis”. He further said, – “Our position has always been clear and consistent. The entire territories of the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and are an integral part of India and would remain so. Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal matters”.
In a statement on September 24, MEA also said: “Pakistan is the global epicentre of terrorism and continues to be the source of terrorist activities in India. We advise Pakistan to cease its sponsorship and overt and covert support to terrorism against India”.
It said, “This will enable the two countries to engage and address issues bilaterally rather than distract this important forum (CICA) from its agenda”.
In fact, in New York last year, Islamabad was faced with a major embarrassment at the United Nations after Pakistan’s vocal foreign minister Qureshi was left dumbfounded in front of waiting journalists.
“….the spokesman will speak to you…,” Mr Qureshi merely remarked after he was confronted by journalists and television crew including from India and Pakistan. He was asked — “Why Pakistan has supported Hafiz Saeed?”
It is worth mentioning that it is Islamabad which has been keen to open dialogue with India. Still, the Indian government has made it clear that while it is ‘not shying away’ from the same, Pakistan will have to take concrete actions against terrorists taking shelter in India’s western neighbour.