KATHMANDU, Feb 25: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a telephonic conversation with his Nepali counterpart Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, recently.
During the conversation held on Saturday, the Pakistani foreign minister said that Pakistan attaches great importance to its neighbors, South Asia and believes in lasting peace.
The conversation comes amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and India after a suicide car bomb attack two weeks ago that killed 40 Indian paramilitary policemen in the disputed Kashmir region.
Qureshi approached the foreign minister of Nepal, which is also the present Chair of eight-member regional grouping SAARC, and discussed the evolving peace and security situation in the region.
Qureshi said that SAARC is a forum established to bring the countries of the region together and therefore, Nepal as the Chair can play a constructive role in this regard, according to the press statement.
On the occasion, Gyawali said that peace and the security of the region is a primary responsibility of all.
"Nepal, as a member of SAARC and friend of Pakistan, firmly believes that peace is in the interest of everyone," the statement quoted Foreign Minister Gyawali as saying.
Although Nepal as its chair has been constantly calling for convening the SAARC Summit at the earliest, a renewed diplomatic tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack has made the SAARC Summit further uncertain.
Experts in Kathmandu fear that the deterioration in the already troubled relations between New Delhi and Islamabad could leave the fate of the of this South Asia regional body itself in jeopardy.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group—a terrorist outfit India claims to be based in Pakistan-- has taken the responsibility for the attack. India has alleged that Pakistan was involved in the attack as Islamabad has been “sponsoring” and “sheltering terrorists and terrorist organizations such as JeM —something Pakistani Foreign Secretary in his briefing has rejected outright.
Amid growing diplomatic tensions after the suicide bomb attack in Pulwama, India raised customs duty on all products imported from Pakistan by 200 percent. New Delhi has also stepped up its diplomatic efforts to ensure Pakistan’s complete isolation, as China continues to block its move to keep JeM leader Masood Azhar in the designated terrorist list from the UN.
Nepal in its capacity as the chair has been nudging both India and Pakistan to host the long-delayed summit to give momentum to the SAARC process.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has been urging both India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue.
“If US President Trump and North Korea’s Kim can meet, then why not (leaders of) other countries,” Minister Gyawali had famously asked during an interaction with a group of journalists in New Delhi recently.
Nepal hosted the 18th SAARC Summit in November, 2014 and it is now Pakistan’s turn to host the 19th summit. The SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in 2016 was similarly cancelled after India expressed its inability to attend it following the terror attack at an army camp in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir on September 18, 2016.
Back then, India had said that under the “prevailing circumstances”, it would not be able to attend the summit.
Recently, in November 2018, India had snubbed the invitation of Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit, alleging that Islamabad had not demonstrated visible action toward curbing terrorist activities emanating from its soil.