Stop blocking Saarc initiatives: India’s message to Pakistan
India indicated on Monday that Pakistan should desist from “blocking every possible initiative” under Saarc, stressing such an approach will force countries of the region to look for other options such as BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) to boost regional cooperation.
Without naming Pakistan, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said some basic standards of regional cooperation have to apply, noting that opposition to major initiatives aimed at improving regional connectivity have frustrated a majority of the member countries.
In an address to a leading think-tank in New Delhi, Jaishankar dwelled on China-Pakistan ties and said some issues, including the economic corridor Beijing was building through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, were causing concerns for India.
When asked about Pakistan’s oft-repeated threat of the use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said: “We do not speak of tactical nuclear weapons, somebody else does.”
Jaishankar said there was no need for major powers to get involved in the resolution of issues between India and Pakistan, adding it gives rise to “expectations and illusions” that are not sustained by objective facts on the ground.
He, however, insisted that “a constantly interfering umpire” does not allow the game to take its natural course. He said India’s “allergy” to involvement of any great power in India-Pakistan ties is well known.
Talking about “fluidity” of geo-politics and fast-changing foreign policy space, Jaishankar, who has just returned from the US, said there will be change in the terms of engagement between the US and the world under Donald Trump’s presidency.
On Saarc, he said India has immense interest in the grouping and called Pakistan’s approach to block major regional initiatives “hugely damaging” for the region as well as Asia.
The annual summit of the grouping was to be held in Islamabad, but it was cancelled after India and many other member countries decided not to participate.
There has been an indication that India and some other countries may look for BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) for regional cooperation if Pakistan continues to create hurdles for Saarc.
Islamabad had played spoilsport in firming up a key connectivity pact during the group’s last summit in Kathmandu.
“You cannot be a member of a region and block every possible regional initiative and still say I am good member. That sort of approach has to change,” Jaishankar said.