ISLAMABAD: As India rejected Pakistan’s fresh offer for holding the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) by repeating terror allegations against it, the Foreign Office on Friday blamed New Delhi for making the eight-member regional body dysfunctional.

“India’s obstruction of the Saarc process is an established fact. … India’s myopic attitude is rendering a valuable platform for regional cooperation increasingly dysfunctional,” FO spokesman Asim Iftikhar said.

He pointed out that India was acting in this manner for “partisan reasons”, and, therefore, stood in violation of the Saarc’s charter provisions that do not allow bilateral and contentious issues to be taken up.

Pakistan was to host the 19th summit of the regional body in November 2016, but India, supported by its allies Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan, forced its postponement by pulling out of the meeting on the pretext of “increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in internal affairs of member states by one country”.

The virtual Indian veto has to-date prevented Pakistan from convening the event. Participation of all member states is mandatory for the convening of a Saarc summit.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had at a press conference on Monday offered India to participate in the summit virtually, if it did not want to join it in Islamabad.

In response to Mr Qureshi’s offer, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had at a media briefing on Thursday said: “We have seen media reports regarding the Pakistan foreign minister’s remarks about Saarc summit. You are aware of the background as to why Saarc summit has not been held since 2014.”

“There has been no material change in the situation since then. Therefore, there is still no consensus that would permit the holding of the summit,” he further said.

Bagchi had, moreover, disparaged Prime Minister Imran Khan’s message on the occasion of Kashmir’s Right to Self-Determination Day on Jan 5.

“The int community, esp the UN, must take action on India’s war crimes & crimes against humanity in IIOJK as Kashmiris continue to reject & resist Indian occupation & oppression,” the prime minister had tweeted.

Bagchi had in response to Mr Khan claimed occupied Jammu and Kashmir to be India’s “inalienable and integral part” and repeated allegations against Pakistan of supporting “cross-border terrorism”, sheltering Osama bin Laden, and not observing human rights.

FO spokesman Iftikhar rejected Bagchi’s remarks as “false” and “tendentious”.

He further said that no amount of “obfuscation and misrepresentation” by Indian officials could hide India’s state-terrorism in occupied Kashmir with the egregious human rights violations perpetrated by Indian forces against Kashmiris having been extensively documented by international human rights machinery, including in the two Kashmir reports issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2018 and 2019.

Pakistan, he recalled, had shared several dossiers with the international community on India’s unabated human rights abuses in IIOJK and its state-terrorism against Kashmiri people and in Pakistan.

“India must abjure the use of state-terrorism as an instrument of policy. Pakistan will continue to resolutely oppose Indian machinations and expose its anti-peace agenda imperiling regional peace and security,” he emphasised.

India, he said, must recognise the reality of the just, legitimate and indigenous Kashmiri struggle, respect wishes of the Kashmiri people, and grant them their inalienable right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Charter and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Mr Iftikhar urged India to review its self-serving approach and enable the Saarc process to move forward for progress and prosperity of the peoples of South Asia.

Pakistan, he reiterated, remained ready to host the next Saarc summit as soon as the artificial obstacles created in its way were removed.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2022

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