ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Friday celebrated the 34th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Charter Day amid India’s defiance to stop a summit in Islamabad.

Pakistan is making efforts to revive the SAARC glory amid tensions with India. SAARC Summit is held in different South Asian nations, every 12-18 months.

Demonstrating Pakistan’s commitment to SAARC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs celebrated the 34th SAARC Charter Day in collaboration with the SAARC Arbitration Council and SAARC Energy Centre. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, was the chief guest.

Ambassadors and representatives of the Missions of Member and Observer States of SAARC, Heads and representatives of SAARC Arbitration Council, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and SAARC Energy Centre, officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and representatives of print and electronic media attended the ceremony.

The first SAARC Summit was held in Bangladesh, in 1985. The SAARC Summit, in 2016, was to be held in Pakistan but India boycotted following the Uri attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers in held Kashmir.

The SAARC summit 2016 was finally cancelled as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Maldives followed India’s decision to boycott the summit.

Pakistan is now seeking support from smaller South Asian states to host the regional SAARC Summit in Islamabad this year. Sri Lanka and Nepal have already shown support.

Pakistan says that India is impeding the SAARC process as Islamabad remained committed to the regional body. Tensions have been growing between Pakistan and India after killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, by the Indian forces in July 2016 and an attack on an Indian military camp in held Kashmir in September that killed 19 soldiers.

Addressing the SAARC Charter Day ceremony, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua emphasised that only through adhering to the principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect among member states, would “we be able to guide SAARC to our cherished goal of a prosperous and developed South Asian region.”

She also reiterated that Pakistan stood ready to host the 19th SAARC Summit. She said: “This day reminds us to respond positively and effectively to the growing and multifaceted challenges faced by the region.”

She said all the member countries needed to work together with cohesion to transform the lives of their peoples and alleviate poverty from the region. She said this was the commitment expressed repeatedly by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The Foreign Secretary said South Asia being home to 1.7 billion talented, energetic and educated human resource and abundantly blessed with natural resources must not be left behind.

She pointed out that SAARC countries over the years have focused on poverty alleviation. “However life of a large population remains far from satisfactory. We have enormous responsibility to deliver on this front,” she added.

The foreign secretary said that being founding member, Pakistan stood steadfastly by the principles of SAARC charter. Janjua said Pakistan continued to believe in the viability of the organisation. She said by adhering to the principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect amongst member countries, “we can guide the organisation towards achieving our cherished goal of a prosperous and developed South Asian Region.”  

The secretary said it was in the same spirit that Pakistan had made preparations to host the 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad. She added: “We look forward to host the summit to take forward the agenda of SAARC.”

Addressing the ceremony Director SAARC energy centre Naeem Malik highlighted the potential of energy cooperation especially the renewables amongst the South Asian countries. 

He said regional cooperation can lead to economic prosperity of the peoples in the region.

In his remarks, President of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nandana Jayaruwan Edirisinghe stressed for removing trade barriers amongst the regional countries in order to fully exploit the economic potential of the region.

The speakers highlighted the importance of SAARC in fulfilling the collective goal of socio-economic progress as envisaged by the leaders of SAARC 34 years ago.