India’s minister of externam affairs, Sushma Swaraj waves to the media from an airplane. (Source: Ministry of External Affairs)

Pakistan Blames India’s Sushma Swaraj For Stalled Talks

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left a meeting of the SAARC foreign ministers early in a huge snub to her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi amidst fresh chill in bilateral ties. He went on to blame Swaraj for stalled discussions on regional cooperation.

Swaraj attended the Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers held on the margins of the UN General Assembly and chaired by Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on Thursday.

No I didn’t have any talk with her (Swaraj). On the positive gesture, I can say she left the meeting mid-way, may be she was not feeling well.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Affairs Minister, Pakistan

Indian diplomatic sources told PTI that it was quite normal in a multilateral meeting to leave early after one has delivered the country's statement. The sources said that Swaraj was not the first minister to leave the meeting as her counterparts from Afghanistan and Bangladesh had also left before her.

They added that Swaraj had other engagements as well and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale was present throughout the SAARC meeting.

Swaraj and Qureshi were slated to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly session.

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However, India called off the meeting last week, citing the brutal killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing postage stamps "glorifying" slain Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.

"The attitude of one nation is making the spirit of SAARC and the spirit of the founding fathers of SAARC unfulfilled and unsuccessful," Qureshi said, in a veiled reference to India.

He said that he heard the Indian Minister's remarks at the meeting "very carefully".

She talked about regional cooperation. My question is how will regional cooperation be possible when the region’s nations are ready to sit together and you are the obstacle in that dialogue and discussion.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Affairs Minister, Pakistan

Qureshi said he judged from the SAARC meeting that most of the members present there understand the significance and value of the grouping.

He cited other regional blocs like ASEAN and the EU and said "look at this (SAARC) atmosphere".

India had boycotted the 2016 SAARC summit citing Islamabad's unrelenting support to terrorist activities in India and and after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian Army base in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir.

Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan had also joined India in boycotting the summit.

Qureshi called the Foreign Secretary's comments, made after Swaraj had left, as a "very vague statement".

"You say the next summit will not happen until there is conducive environment. How do you define what conducive environment is? It can vary from country to country. It can vary from person to person. On the basis of an imaginary thing, you are becoming an obstacle in the way of the entire region and its prosperity," he said.

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