Pakistan ready to host SAARC summit: Foreign Office

Islamabad: Pakistan said on Thursday that it was ready to host the long-delayed summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which is an important organisation for regional cooperation. 

“Pakistan is committed to its process and to hold the SAARC summit…It believes that all artificial obstacles in the way of long overdue SAARC summit should be removed,” Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told reporters during his weekly media briefing here.

The last SAARC summit was held in Kathmandu in 2014.

The 2016 SAARC summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances”.

The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.

SAARC summits are usually held biennially and hosted by member states in alphabetical order. The member state hosting the summit assumes the Chair of the Association.

In his message on the occasion of the 36th charter day of SAARC on December 8 last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the full potential of the eight-member bloc can only be realised in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

On December 8, 1985 at the first SAARC Summit in Dhaka, the leaders of the seven South Asian states – the Maldives, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka signed a charter to establish the bloc. Afghanistan became the eight SAARC member in 2007.

During Thursday’s foreign office media briefing, Chaudhri also rejected the reports that Pakistan is importing COVID-19 vaccine from India.

“Pakistan has not entered into any bilateral procurement agreement for COVID-19 vaccine from India,” he said in response to a question.

The spokesman said that Gavi, the international vaccine alliance – offered to provide vaccine dozes to several countries, including Pakistan under its COVAX facility and the procurement was responsibility of the Gavi and not the recipient countries.

Responding to another question about dialogue with India, the spokesman said Pakistan has never shied away from talks and has always called for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including Kashmir.

When asked about the inclusion of India in an upcoming conference on Afghanistan, he said Pakistan supported the regional approach. “As for India’s inclusion in the Afghan peace process, Pakistan supports regional approaches to solving the conflict in Afghanistan, he said.

However, he alleged that India “has not been a constructive partner for peace in Afghanistan.” 

To another question about the grant of provisional status to Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Chaudhri said Pakistan has repeatedly maintained that these reforms are an ongoing process that includes political, administrative and economic reforms.

“It has been a long-standing demand of the people of GB. These reforms, aimed at further empowering the people of GB, will continue in line with their needs and demands, he said.

India has previously slammed Pakistan’s attempt to accord provincial status to the “so-called” Gilgit-Baltistan, saying it is intended to camouflage the “illegal” occupation of the region by Islamabad.

Responding to a question on the Afghanistan issue, the foreign office spokesperson said it was important for Afghan parties to continue negotiations and pursue an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

“Pakistan welcomes the US efforts to re-energise the peace process and expedite the final political settlement, he said.