Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Thursday said an environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation on progress and economic development in South Asia. Swaraj made the remark while addressing member nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.
Swaraj said it was necessary to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and end the “ecosystem of its support”. “The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia are on the rise,” she said. She left the informal ministerial meeting after her speech, which is “standard practice in multilateral engagements”, unidentified officials told ANI.
Pakistan, meanwhile, called the statement “vague” and accused India of obstructing the region’s progress and prosperity. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters that he did not have talks with Swaraj at the meeting as she left mid-way. “Maybe she was not feeling well,” he said.
He asked how regional cooperation will be possible if countries are “ready to sit together and you are the obstruction in that dialogue and discussion”.
On September 20, India had agreed for a meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, but called it off the next day, citing “deeply disturbing developments”. Pakistan had expressed disappointment at India’s decision.
“I have no hesitation in saying that in the way of SAARC’s progress and in the way of the region’s connectivity and prosperity, there is only one obstruction and one attitude,” Qureshi said on Thursday, without naming India. “The attitude of one nation is making the spirit of SAARC and the spirit of the founding fathers of SAARC unfulfilled.”
Swaraj also attended a ministerial meeting of BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. She held bilateral meetings with the prime minister of Nepal and the foreign ministers of Iran and Japan.