ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reiterated Saturday it was ready to host the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit amid a repeated refusal by India to attend the leaders' conference in Islamabad.
“Yes, we have been ready to host the summit for the last two years,” Pakistan's Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal told Arab News on Saturday, adding that “India is blocking the effort.”
The 19th session of the summit, due to be held in Islamabad in November 2016, was postponed indefinitely amid rising tensions between arch-rivals India and Pakistan.
In September 2016, India’s foreign ministry had announced it would skip the meeting, blaming Pakistan for a deadly assault that month on an army base in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir. Pakistan denies the accusations.
Kashmir has been the flashpoint for two of three wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours since 1947.
Following India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also pulled out of the 2016 summit, leading to its postponement.
According to the SAARC charter, the conference is to be postponed even if a single member state declines to participate.
Late last month, on the eve of the opening of the Kartarpur visa-free border crossing that will be used by Sikh pilgrims coming from India to visit holy sites in Pakistan, the foreign office announced that it would invite Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the SAARC summit.
India immediately shunned the offer.
"Invitation has already been given but we are not responding to that positively," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters last month. "Until and unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in SAARC."
Quaid-i-Azam University professor Zaffar Nawaz Jaspal said after the Kartarpur corridor inauguration, Pakistan had expected a positive response from India to its invitation and the subsequent resumption of the SAARC process.
"But due to domestic compulsions such as the Hindutva vote in the upcoming (2019 general) elections, the Modi government is reluctant to restart dialogue and convene SAARC,” Jaspal told Arab News. “SAARC is an important organisation for regional economic cooperation. Its dysfunctional undermines as well as hinders regional prosperity.”
SAARC was established in Dhaka in 1985 and comprises Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.