Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has accused India of “undermining” the spirit of the SAARC by “casting shadows” of bilateral issues on the multilateral forum for regional cooperation. In a joint press conference with Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen here, Sharif yesterday said that the last Islamabad SAARC summit was not the first time that India caused harm to the SAARC by seeking its postponement. “It had done so on four occasions,” he claimed. After holding talks with Yameen, Sharif said Pakistan and the Maldives have agreed to work together to make the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) a vibrant organisation and a vehicle to realise their shared dreams for a peaceful and prosperous region. “India undermined and violated the spirit of SAARC Charter by casting shadows of bilateral issues and problems on a multilateral forum for regional cooperation,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP). “We, however, remain grateful for President Yameen’s support regarding the SAARC summit in Islamabad,” he added. Sharif said that during his talks with the Maldivian President he also raised the Kashmir issue. India pulled out of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad last year citing increased “cross-border” attacks after heightened tension with Pakistan over Uri terror attack.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan also pulled out of the Summit indirectly blaming Pakistan for creating an environment which was not right for the successful holding of the meet, resulting in its collapse. Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) slammed President Yameen for his “deafening silence” while Sharif attacked India during the press conference. “President Yameen said nothing” when Sharif accused India of harming SAARC and claimed that both Maldives and Pakistan share similar views on SAARC, the opposition party, headed by ousted president Mohamed Nasheed, said in a statement. “We are extremely concerned about Yameen’s refusal to clarify the Maldives’ position on the SAARC,” it said.
It said that by failing to correct Sharif at the press conference, Yameen had “effectively sided with the Pakistani version of events.” “The SAARC summit in Islamabad had to be postponed because of continued instability in the region. Terror attacks in India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, as well as in Pakistan, made the timing and location unconducive to a high-level meeting,” the party said.
The party reminded President Yameen that it was India which came to the Maldives’ assistance and protected its sovereignty during the November 3, 1988 attempted coup. Nasheed became the Maldives’ first democratically-elected president in 2008, but he was narrowly defeated by Yameen five years later in a controversial run-off election.
In 2015, Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges that were widely seen as politically motivated. He lives in exile in Britain after being granted leave to go there for medical treatment. Sharif, who is here on a three-day official visit on an invitation of President Yameen, attended the island nation’s 52nd Independence Day celebrations as the chief guest. During the meeting between Sharif and Yameen, the two countries agreed to further enhance their bilateral ties in various fields, overcome common challenges and work jointly to make SAARC a vibrant organisation. Sharif also briefed Yameen on Pakistan’s efforts to fight the scourge of terrorism. “We have launched successful operations against terrorists and have won important victories,” he said.
The two countries signed a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for enhancing bilateral cooperation in the fields of tourism, trade, education, capacity building of civil servants and training for diplomats.