Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday boycotted External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s opening statement at the meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Council of Foreign Ministers, reported PTI. Qureshi said he “will not engage with India until and unless they lift the siege and put an end to atrocities in Kashmir”.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. “They must safeguard human rights of Kashmiris, ensure they are protected and not violated or trampled upon,” tweeted the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. The party added that the minister “refuses to attend Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s statement at the meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers”. Senior officials from Pakistan, including Director General (South Asia) and spokesperson Mohammad Faisal, were, however, present at the meeting, reported The Indian Express.

The meeting started in Qureshi’s absence. He showed up minutes after Jaishankar left. Asked about his late arrival, Qureshi said he does not want to sit with the Indian minister as a mark of protest over Kashmir, reported Hindustan Times. Jaishankar did not take questions from reporters. The external affairs minister also refused to comment on the absence of Qureshi. However, an unidentified Indian official said, “Such drama will not work. Pakistan has to create a conducive atmosphere for the SAARC process to go ahead.”

There was outrage in Pakistan after India decided to scrap the special status for Jammu and Kashmir on August 5. Pakistan stopped trade with India, downgraded diplomatic relations and wrote several letters to the United Nations. It has also attempted to raise the spectre of war in international fora. On Wednesday, Qureshi demanded that the United Nations hold a plebiscite in Kashmir.

SAARC is a regional grouping in Asia. It comprises India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

In 2018, former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left the room after her statement at the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting amid tensions between India and Pakistan. In 2016, India did not participate in the SAARC Summit in Islamabad as a mark of protest against the terrorist attack in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also refused to participate.

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