Pakistan defers SAARC summit, 'deplores' India's decision to skip meet

Nawaz Sharif with Narendra Modi during a meeting in Lahore in December 2015. (Representative image) Photograph:( AFP )

PTI Islamabad, Pakistan Sep 30, 2016, 04.08 PM (IST)

Pakistan on Friday postponed the SAARC summit after five member states, including India, backed out of the regional meet originally scheduled for November. 

A statement released by Pakistan's foreign office "deplored" India's decision to opt out of the meet, accusing it of "violating" the spirit of the SAARC Charter by raising bilateral problems on a multilateral forum.

Four other SAARC members — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka — followed suit, blaming Pakistan for the hostile environment in the region and for disrupting peace and security.

"Pakistan deplores India's decision to impede the SAARC process by not attending the 19th SAARC Summit at Islamabad on 9-10 November 2016. The spirit of the SAARC Charter is violated when a member state casts the shadow of its bilateral problems on the multilateral forum for regional cooperation," the statement read.

India's foreign ministry had announced that it would opt out of the summit on Tuesday, blaming Pakistan for a deadly assault in the Uri sector of Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 soldiers.

Pakistan accused India of trying to "derail the summit" and using the Uri incident to "divert the attention of the world from the atrocities by India in Kashmir". It added that the decision contradicted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to fight against poverty in the region. 

"India's decision to abstain from the Summit on the basis of unfounded assumptions on the Uri incident is a futile effort to divert attention of the world from the atrocities by India in Kashmir," Pakistan Foreign Office said.

The country says it is committed to hosting the summit at the earliest and that the new dates for the summit in Islamabad would be announced soon through Nepal, which is currently the SAARC Chair.

"Pakistan attaches great importance to regional cooperation under the umbrella of SAARC...Therefore, Pakistan remains committed to hosting the 19th SAARC Summit at Islamabad at the earliest so that the objectives of regional cooperation under the SAARC umbrella can be pursued more vigorously," the statement read.

Relations between India and Pakistan are at an all-time low following the Uri attack on September 18.

On September 29, the Indian Army carried out surgical strikes on seven terrorist launchpads across the LoC dividing India and Pakistan, killing thirty eight terrorists. 

Pakistan has rejected India's claims of surgical strikes and maintains that India indulged in unprovoked firing from its side of the Kashmir border. 

(WION with inputs from agencies)