External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left a meeting of the SAARC foreign ministers early on Thursday. This move by the minister is being viewed as a huge snub to Pakistan. Swaraj attended the Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers on the sidelines of the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA) and chaired by Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.
After making her statement, she left prompting criticism from Shah Mehmood Qureshi who later told reporters, “No I didn’t have any talk with her (Swaraj). On the positive gesture, I can say she left the meeting mid-way, may be she was not feeling well”.
Indian diplomatic sources told PTI that it was quite normal in a multilateral meeting to leave early after one has delivered the country’s statement. However, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale was present throughout the SAARC meeting.
The sources said that Swaraj was not the first minister to leave the meeting as her counterparts from Afghanistan and Bangladesh had also left before her.
Swaraj and Qureshi were slated to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly session.
However, India called off the meeting last week, citing the brutal killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing postage stamps “glorifying” slain Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.
Qureshi said he saw that there was this thinking in the meeting that “if we have to achieve something from this forum, we have to move forward”.
“What is the way to move forward. We have to decide the next step - I have no hesitation in saying that in the way of SAARC’s progress and success and in the region’s connectivity and prosperity, there is only one obstacle and one attitude.
“The attitude of one nation is making the spirit of SAARC and the spirit of the founding fathers of SAARC unfulfilled and unsuccessful,” he said, in a veiled reference to India.
He said that he heard the Indian minister’s remarks at the meeting “very carefully”.
“She talked about regional cooperation. My question is how will regional cooperation be possible when the region’s nations are ready to sit together and you are the obstacle in that dialogue and discussion,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)