| A Pakistani couple, Nadeem and Tayyaba Sajjad, in Delhi after getting off the Lahore bus late on Friday. Their daughter, Noor Fathima, has a heart problem and will go in for surgery in Bangalore. (AFP)
Kathmandu, July 11: Pakistan is yet to make up its mind whether or not it will be happy to see India participate in the Saarc summit to be held in early January next year in Islamabad.
Less than 24 hours after foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal joined other members of the South Asian group in accepting Pakistan’s proposed dates for the summit, his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokar made it clear Delhi was not doing anybody a favour by accepting the dates.
Khokar also hoped that India would not “sabotage” the summit. He urged the other members to ensure that India does not blackmail the rest by again postponing the summit. He also stressed that India should not be allowed to dictate the pace of reforms on the trade and economic front within Saarc.
Khokar rejected Sibal’s accusation that the slow progress of Saarc was because of Islamabad’s reluctance to remove India-specific trade restrictions. “India is the only member of the Saarc which has thrice forced a postponement of the summit,” Khokar said at the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu, hours after Sibal boarded the Delhi flight.
Khokar said the summit, which was to be held in Islamabad in January last year, was postponed because of India.
Sibal had also made it clear that though India has this time accepted dates proposed by Pakistan, it expected “significant progress” on the trade and economic front for a meaningful discussion by the heads of government during the summit.
Khokar countered that the argument was not convincing. He referred to reports in the Indian media that Delhi may again use this argument to stay away from the meet. “We hope India will participate in the forthcoming Saarc summit and will do nothing to either sabotage or subvert it,” he said.
The foreign secretary argued that “there is no justification for postponing the summit”, which should be held once a year according to the charter, by highlighting the lack of progress in one area.
Khokar said his government is keen to see significant progress on the trade and economic front, but said there are important issues like non-tariff barriers and other hurdles which needed to be sorted out first.
“Even if some of the issues are not sorted out when a summit is held, it gives the leaders of the South Asian nations the chance to remove these obstacles through discussions.”
Khokar had made it clear that he was more than willing to meet Sibal in Kathmandu for a bilateral discussion. “There is absolutely no terrorism from Pakistan in Kashmir or elsewhere in India,” Khokar said.
“It is the country which accuses us of terrorism which is known to have exported terrorism to Sri Lanka and other parts of South Asia in the past.”
After indulging in anti-India remarks for most part of the press meet, Khokar said that as a “general rule”, Islamabad had decided to cut down its rhetoric against Delhi.