Post Uri freeze, Pak wants to host the much-delayed SAARC Summit

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday expressed hope that his country would host the much-delayed SAARC Summit when the “artificial obstacle” created in its way is removed.

Khan made the remarks during his meeting with Secretary-General of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, who paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister here, according to the Foreign Office.

The Prime Minister “expressed hope to host the SAARC Summit in Pakistan when artificial obstacle created in its way would be removed,” the Foreign Office quoted him as saying.

The SAARC — a regional grouping comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — has not been very effective since 2016 as its biennial summits have not taken place since the last one in Kathmandu in 2014.

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.

During his meeting with Weerakoon, Khan reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the mutually beneficial goals and objectives embodied in the SAARC Charter.

He also underlined that SAARC can provide a conducive and beneficial atmosphere to build economic synergies which can transform the quality of life of the people of South Asia.

Prime Minister Khan “emphasised on strengthening cooperation on issues of common interest including climate change, education, poverty alleviation, energy integration and health challenges,” the FO said.

The Prime Minister appreciated SAARC Secretary-General’s efforts to further improve and promote SAARC processes and assured him of continued support of Pakistan in further strengthening regional cooperation under the SAARC ambit, it said.

The Secretary-General thanked the Prime Minister for his guidance on SAARC related issues and assured him that during his tenure he will make determined efforts to strengthen collaboration among member states in different fields for the benefit of all the countries of South Asian region.

Khan also strongly condemned the lynching of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot earlier this month and said that there was no justification whatsoever for such acts.

He said that all necessary steps have been taken in order to speedily bring the perpetrators to justice.

Weerakoon, a Sri Lankan diplomat, assumed charge as the Secretary-General of the SAARC in March last year.

Weerakoon, who is on his first visit to Pakistan since assuming office, earlier this week met with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the principles and objectives of the SAARC Charter for the welfare of the people of the region, economic integration and regional prosperity.

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