NEW YORK, Sep 28: Foreign ministers of India and Pakistan avoided each other at an informal meeting of SAARC foreign ministers in New York on Thursday, dashing hopes that the much-awaited meeting amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions could pave the way for icebreaker dialogue between the two countries.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi arrived at the meeting venue a few minutes after Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar left the meeting. Nepal in its capacity as current SAARC chair had convened the foreign ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said that although they didn’t meet each other both India and Pakistani minister stressed the need for strengthening SAARC and regional cooperation.
“I think it was just a coincidence. Because I don’t think they decided to avoid each other,” said Gyawali, when asked about the issue.
Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankr did not speak to the media as he left the meeting early. But later, he tweeted stressing the need for bolstering regional cooperation. “Regionalism has taken root in every corner of the world. If we have lagged behind, it is because South Asia does not have normal trade and connectivity that other regions do,” he tweeted. Jaishankar also said that elimination of terrorism in the region is important for survival of the region.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi however said that he couldn’t sit and talk with India, as India was involved in ‘killings in Kashmir.’ While speaking at the meeting, Qureshi said that his country was ready to host the long overdue SAARC summit anytime soon. “Pakistan said that they are ready to host the next SAARC summit and even proposed a date. But we didn’t discuss the date because it was just an informal meeting,” Minister Gyawali said.