NEW DELHI: In what is perceived as a snub to Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left an informal meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers in New York after finishing her statement on Thursday, and before her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi began his speech.
The meeting, held on the margins of the 73rd UN General Assembly, was chaired by Nepal’s Foreign Minister, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, and included foreign ministers of the Saarc members—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.Last week, a day after announcing that the two foreign ministers would meet informally in New York, New Delhi called off the meeting citing the killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing postage stamps “glorifying” slain Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.
In her speech, Swaraj stressed that that regional cooperation could only be successful if it met the expectations of the people. “An environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation to progress and achieve economic development and prosperity of our people. The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia are on the rise,” she said. Asserting that terrorism remained the single largest threat to peace and stability in the region and to the world, she said “It is necessary that we eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination, and end the ecosystem of its support.”
She also pledged India’s commitment to regional cooperation, saying it attaches highest priority to the development and prosperity of the region, under the government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. “Development of seamless physical connectivity is key for achieving regional growth, employment and prosperity,” she saidIndia boycotted the 2016 Saarc summit in Islamabad after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian Army base in Uri in Kashmir.