ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has expressed hope that it could soon host the SAARC summit which was postponed after India boycotted it, with Prime Minister's advisor on foreign policy Sartaj Aziz alleging that New Delhi "impeded" the grouping's process.
Aziz said this during a meeting with outgoing South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa who was on a visit to Pakistan yesterday. Pakistan was looking forward to welcoming SAARC leaders for the 19th Summit in November but it was postponed when "India impeded the SAARC process and violated the spirit of the SAARC Charter", Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement. "Pakistan remains committed to hosting the 19th SAARC Summit at Islamabad at the earliest so that the objectives of regional cooperation under the SAARC umbrella can be pursued more vigorously," FO quoted Aziz saying in the meeting.
He also reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to regional cooperation under the umbrella of SAARC for promoting welfare of the people of South Asia, improving their quality of life, economic progress, social uplift and cultural cooperation. Aziz said that due to several impediments and challenges, SAARC has been unable to fulfill the vision that was laid out for it by its founding members.
Aziz said he believed that the SAARC Secretariat could play an important role as catalyst to bring all the member states together and ensure timely and effective implementation of programme and activities that would benefit the region. Thapa emphasised the need to overcome the difficulties the organisation faced and expressed hope that the 19th SAARC Summit would be held in Islamabad as soon as possible.
Thapa, who paid a farewell call on Aziz, also held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, who appreciated Thapa's contributions to the SAARC process and reiterated Pakistan's commitment to the SAARC objectives.
Chaudhry emphasised that internal and bilateral problems of member states must not be allowed to affect the organisation and that 19th SAARC Summit should be held as soon as possible to put the whole SAARC process back on track. On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Syed Zulfiqar Gardezi, Additional Secretary (Asia Pacific) hosted a lunch for the Secretary-General, which was attended by Amjad Hussian Sial, Secretary General-elect of the SAARC.
Thapa who hails from Nepal, is the 12th Secretary General of SAARC. He will complete his tenure on February 28 after which Amjad Hussain Sial, former Special Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan is to take charge as the next Secretary General of SAARC.