Against the backdrop of a war of words between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday he was looking forward to welcoming the leaders of Saarc states for the regional grouping’s summit in Islamabad in November.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley skipped a meeting of Saarc finance ministers in Islamabad this week and questions have been raised about India’s participation in the grouping’s summit to be held during November 9-10.
“The Prime Minister of Pakistan has invited the leaders of Saarc Member States to grace the summit with their presence and is looking forward to welcome them at Islamabad,” said a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.
Nine observers of Saarc have been invited to the summit. Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry inaugurated a Saarc Summit Cell on Friday to give impetus to preparations for the meet. Besides working with all stakeholders, the Summit Cell will liaise with the member states and observers for the summit.
The finance minister’s decision to skip the meeting in Islamabad came close on the heels of home minister Rajnath Singh’s experiences at a meeting of Saarc interior ministers earlier this month, which added to bilateral tensions.
Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan barely shook hands and traded barbs over the situation in Kashmir. Bilateral ties took another hit after a war of words over the unrest in Kashmir and the rights situation in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.
Pakistan said Modi had crossed a “red line” by raising the issue of Balochistan in his Independence Day speech. Pakistan also offered talks on Kashmir but India said any dialogue would have to focus on the issue of terrorism.