Pakistan to invite Modi for Saarc summit
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan will invite Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Islamabad, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Tuesday.
No schedule has been issued for the SAARC summit but it is believed the event will be proposed for any time this year.
Faisal said Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first address as the premier had made it clear that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two and respond positively to any peace effort.
The SAARC Summit is held in different South Asian nations, every 12-18 months. 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. Until now, India has hinted it will not participate in the SAARC summit in Pakistan due to the tension between the nuclear armed neighbours.
Pakistan has been highlighting India’s campaign against the SAARC among the member states to expose New Delhi’s negativity. Pakistan alleges that India was impeding the SAARC process as Islamabad remained committed to the regional body.
Tensions have been ever 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 the same year.
Reports said the cross-border clashes between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India had reached the highest levels in 15 years. Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded in the clashes instigated by India.
The nuclear armed neighbours have fought three wars since gaining independence from the British in 1947. The two regularly trade allegations of harassment and espionage against diplomats.
Speaking at the ‘Kashmir Conference’ here Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said in his response to Modi’s letter, PM Imran Khan had expressed Pakistan’s openness to resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue with India. “We fought a war with India, relations cannot be fixed quickly,” he added.
Dr Faisal said Prime Minister Khan will perform the groundbreaking of Kartarpura border corridor today (November 28), which will enable Sikh pilgrims from India to visit one of the most sacred religious sites in Pakistan. “This is a great achievement and success,” he remarked.
The new development comes after Pakistan invited Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Indian Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for Kartapur corridor ceremony.
Although Swaraj and Singh declined the invitation, two Indian ministers – Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri will participate in the event. Indian Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is already in Pakistan. No Indian Minister has visited Pakistan since Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s Saarc visit in 2016.
Dr Faisal said India was running away from the dialogue process. “We have always been seeking a dialogue with India but they run away every time. Pakistan’s main aim it to stop human rights violations in the Kashmir,” he stated.
He urged India to stop bloodshed in Kashmir and resolve the issue under the United Nations’ resolutions.
Faisal said the office of UN High Commission for Human Rights had presented a comprehensive report on rights violations in occupied Kashmir and the UK Parliamentary Group’s Report on Jammu and Kashmir had also reflected the same. He urged youth to play their role in highlighting the Kashmir issue on social media.
Addressing the conference, Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari urged the world to play its due role for the resolution of the decades-old issue.
She said the report of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner on Kashmir seeks international inquiry into gross violations being committed by Indian armed forces in the held valley.
Mazari said India was trying to change the demography of occupied Kashmir and always denied access of media and international observers to the held territory.
Referring to Kartarpura border opening, she said Pakistan took the initiative on humanitarian grounds to facilitate Sikh community.