Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday blamed India for obstructing the SAARC process and alleged that New Delhi's myopic attitude was rendering a valuable platform for regional cooperation increasingly dysfunctional.
SAARC - a regional grouping comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - has not been very effective since 2016 and its biennial summits have not taken place since the last one in Kathmandu in 2014.
Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said India's "obstruction of the SAARC process was an established fact."
Pakistan's response came a day after India said there was no "material change" in the situation that would allow holding of the stalled SAARC Summit.
You are aware of the background as to why the SAARC summit has not been held since 2014. There has been no material change in the situation since then. Therefore, there is still no consensus that would permit holding of the summit," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing in New Delhi.
Iftikhar rejected Bagchi's statement as false."
Motivated by its partisan reasons, and acting in violation of Charter provisions requiring exclusion of bilateral issues, India was responsible for stymieing the 19th SAARC Summit scheduled to take place in Pakistan in 2016, the spokesperson said in a statement.
The 2016 SAARC Summit was originally planned to be held in Islamabad on November 15-19, 2016. But after a terror 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.
Iftikhar said India's myopic attitude was rendering a valuable platform for regional cooperation increasingly dysfunctional.
Pakistan hoped that India would review its self-serving approach and enable the SAARC process to move forward for the progress and prosperity of the peoples of South Asia. For its part, Pakistan remained ready to host the next SAARC Summit as soon as the artificial obstacles created in its way were removed, he said.
The bilateral relations deteriorated after India withdrew the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two union territories in August, 2019.
India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.
The Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson's remarks come days after the country's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said his country was ready to host the 19th SAARC Summit and India can join it virtually if the leadership in New Delhi is not willing to visit Islamabad.
"I reiterate the invitation for the 19th SAARC summit. If India is not ready to come to Islamabad, it can join virtually but it should not stop others from attending the moot, he said on Monday. Last month. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed hope that Islamabad would host the much-delayed meeting when the "artificial obstacle" created in its way is removed.
Khan made the remarks during his meeting with Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, who paid a courtesy call on the prime minister here.