Frosty relations between India and Pakistan spilled over into the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on Friday as the two countries met ahead of the 73rd session of United Nations General Assembly.
Sources said that the tensions between the two countries was palpable at the SAARC meeting that foreign ministers of member countries attended on the sidelines of the UNGA. Sources said that India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi didn’t even exchange cordial looks, let alone greet each other, at the meeting. Swaraj is believed to have walked out with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Rabbani soon after their address, leaving Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to attend the rest of the meeting.
The New York SAARC meeting was initially scheduled for two hours on Thursday night, but began late.
In her address, Swaraj highlighted India’s role in initiatives taken by the group, including the South Asian University, SAARC satellite and the Disaster Management Centre in Gandhinagar. With specifying whom she was talking about, she said it was necessary to destroy terrorist havens—remarks that were apparently meant for Pakistan.
“The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia are on the rise. Terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in our region, and indeed in the world,” said Swaraj. “It is necessary that we eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination, and end the ecosystem of its support,” she said.
In turn, Qureshi directed his scathing remarks at India, saying that “one country was holding the 1.7 billion people of South Asia hostage” through its “whimsical allegations”. He was referring to India’s decision to boycott the SAARC summit.