Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday skipped External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's opening statement at the meeting of the SAARC Council of Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Session in New York. Qureshi, who first held up the meeting, finally decided to boycott Jaishankar's address, citing the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Taking to Twitter, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said, Qureshi "refuses to attend Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar's statement at the meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers. "Pakistan will not engage with India "until and unless they lift the siege" in Kashmir, it said, adding that India must safeguard human rights of Kashmiris, ensure they are protected and not violated or trampled upon".
Pakistan will not engage with the Butcher of Kashmir until & unless they lift the siege & put an end to atrocities in Occupied Kashmir. They must safeguard human rights of Kashmiris, ensure they are protected & not violated or trampled upon.#NoToButcherModi#AllEyesOnKashmir https://t.co/Fm1LZfJDfL— PTI (@PTIofficial) September 26, 2019
Tension between India and Pakistan has spiked ever since the Narendra Modi government on August 5 abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, stripping the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
India's decision to lift the special status of Jammu and Kashmir evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian ambassador to Islamabad. It has also made several failed attemps to internationalise the matter while New Delhi has so far mainted that the matter was "internal" to India.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional grouping in Asia comprising India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. It is usually held biennially hosted by a member state in alphabetical order.
Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA. In a veiled attack on Pakistan, Swaraj told the meeting that the scourge of terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in the South Asian region and it is necessary to eliminate the ecosystem of its support.
Swaraj had immediately left after her remarks at the meeting and did not have any exchange with her Pakistani counterpart Qureshi. The 2018 SAARC Summit came amid tensions between the two countries following the brutal killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing postage stamps "glorifying" a slain Kashmiri militant.
The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after a deadly terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir in September 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. Maldives and Sri Lanka are the seventh and eighth members of the initiative.