Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Friday reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to hosting 19th SAARC Summit at the earliest, following its postponement last year due to refusal of India and other like-minded countries to attend it in Islamabad.
According to Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria the outgoing Secretary General of South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) Arjun Bahadur Thapa, who is on a visit to Pakistan, paid a farewell call on the adviser.
Talking to him, the adviser expressed that Pakistan is looking forward to welcoming SAARC leaders for the 19th Summit that was scheduled in Islamabad in November last but was postponed when India impeded the SAARC process and violated the spirit of the SAARC Charter.
“Pakistan remains committed to hosting the 19th SAARC Summit at Islamabad at the earliest so that the objectives of regional co-operation under the SAARC umbrella can be pursued more vigorously,” Aziz was quoted by the spokesperson as having conveyed to the outgoing secretary general of SAARC, who emphasised the need for overcoming the difficulties that the organisation faces and expressed the hope that the 19th SAARC Summit would be held in Islamabad as soon as possible.
In September last year, India announced that its delegation will not be able travel to Islamabad for attending the November 2016 SAARC summit, saying, “India remains steadfast in its commitment to regional co-operation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in an atmosphere free of terror.” Pakistan, however regretted the Indian government’s decision linking it with India’s previous practices to sabotage the objectives of the SAARC forum.
According to the spokesperson, the adviser reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to regional co-operation under the umbrella of SAARC for promoting welfare of the people of South Asia, improving their quality of life, economic progress, social uplift and cultural co-operation. He said that due to several impediments and challenges, the SAARC has been unable to fulfil the vision that was laid out for it by its founding members. The adviser further stated that he believes that the SAARC Secretariat could play an important role as catalyst to bring all the member states together and ensure timely and effective implementation of program and activities that would benefit the region.
Earlier, the SAARC secretary general also held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry. The foreign secretary appreciated Arjun Bahadur Thapa’s contributions to the SAARC process and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the SAARC objectives. The foreign secretary also emphasised that internal and bilateral problems of member states must not be allowed to affect the organisation and that 19th SAARC Summit should be held as soon as possible to put the whole SAARC process back on track.
On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Syed Zulfiqar Gardezi, Additional Secretary (Asia Pacific) hosted a lunch for the secretary general, which was also attended by Amjad Hussain B Sial, secretary general-elect of the SAARC.