Male - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday accused India of harming the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) and undermining the spirit of the regional forum.

Addressing a joint news conference with Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in Male, Nawaz said “India caused harm to the Saarc by seeking postponement” of the grouping’s summit in Islamabad last year. This was not the first time that India harmed the forum as it “had done so on four occasions”, he added.

India “undermined and violated the spirit of the Saarc charter by casting shadows of bilateral issues and problems on a multilateral forum for regional cooperation”, he maintained. “We, however, remain grateful for President Abdulla Yameen’s support regarding the Saarc Summit in Islamabad,” he said.

Nawaz and Gayoom agreed to work together to make Saarc a “vibrant organisation”. Both leaders agreed to further enhance their bilateral relations in various fields and overcome common challenges.

Nawaz said that they exchanged views and ideas to further expand and strengthen bilateral relations in all areas of mutual interest, including trade, education, tourism, defence and people-to-people contacts.

Nawaz is on a three-day official visit of Maldives on the invitation of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and will be the chief guest at the 52nd Independence Day celebrations of the country today (Wednesday).

Nawaz said they had a complete meeting of minds on the need to overcome common challenges such as climate change and terrorism.

He said they also agreed to work together to make Saarc a vibrant organisation and a vehicle to realise their shared dreams for a peaceful and prosperous region.

Nawaz said during the meeting, he also highlighted the ongoing brutal repression and gross human rights violations by the Indian occupation forces in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Nawaz also briefed President Abdulla Yameen on Pakistan’s efforts to fight the scourge of terrorism. “The brave people and Armed Forces of Pakistan have been resolute in the face of terror and have rendered untold sacrifices,” he said.

“We have launched successful operations against terrorists and have won important victories.” It was Pakistan’s contribution to the peace and stability of the entire region, he added.

He said President Yameen shared with him his vision of promoting cooperation and friendly relations between the Maldives and other countries. Pakistan stood ready to support his efforts, he added.

He said that both the countries had signed a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for enhancing bilateral cooperation in the fields of tourism, trade, education, capacity building of civil servants and training for diplomats.

He said that Pakistan-Maldives Joint Business Council and Joint Working Group had been established, which would serve as platforms for enhanced trade and investment cooperation by facilitating collaboration between businesses and institutions.

In order to sustain on the progress already achieved in bilateral relations, the Prime Minister said that both the countries had constituted four joint working Committees.

The Committees would oversee the implementation of the MoUs signed between the two counties, including those concluded during President Abdulla Yameen’s visit to Pakistan in 2015, he said and added the MoUs related to sports, health, education and combating illicit drugs.

Nawaz said he briefed President Abdulla Yameen on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the contribution that the truly historic initiative would make to the region’s economic integration, connectivity and shared prosperity.

He announced establishment of a medical college for the people of Maldives. Pakistan would provide all resources for it, he added.

Further, he said that from this year on, they would also provide five additional slots for Maldivian students to study medicine, engineering, pharmacy and dentistry in Pakistan.

Congratulating the people and leadership of Maldives on their 52nd year of independence, Nawaz said it was a matter of great happiness for him to share in the celebrations.

Speaking on the occasion, President Yameen said he had received the same feelings of warmth, friendliness and mutual respect that he carried from the people of Pakistan for the people of the Maldives during his visit to Pakistan in 2015.

He said Pakistan had made a tremendous contribution to Maldives in the fields of education and thanked the Prime Minister for setting up a medical college. He said that they also agreed to join their efforts for eradication of terrorism and extremism.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and Maldives signed six MoUs related to trade, education, climate change, tourism, training of diplomats and capacity building of civil servants. The MoUs would help in further consolidating the bilateral relations between the two South Asian countries.