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ISLAMABAD: Speculations were rife in the federal capital, on Thursday, of a possible visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Pakistan later this year in October for attending the expected 19th Saarc Summit to be hosted by the country.

Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri was not available for comments to verify these claims by certain local and Indian media outlets. However, official sources said that Pakistan is ready to host the long-awaited 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad as soon as the “artificial hurdles” created in its way by a member state are removed.

Being a founding member, they added that Pakistan considers Saarc an important platform for regional cooperation.

“Pakistan remains committed to the principles and charter of Saarc. We will continue working with the member states to build convergences and take forward the Saarc process for strengthening regional cooperation to achieve prosperity in the region,” the official said without further divulging on the details or to confirm holding of the Summit anytime soon.

Sources further said that there was also a proposal that the Summit could also be held in virtual format in case the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The 19th Saarc summit was originally scheduled to be held in Islamabad on November 15–19, 2016 but got “postponed” after the Uri attack on Indian army camp in the occupied Kashmir.

The summit was to be attended by the leaders of the eight Saarc member states and representatives of observers and guest states.

However, following the rising diplomatic tensions in wake of the Uri attack, India announced its boycott of the Summit, on the pretext of allegations of cross-border terrorism.

Later, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives also pulled out of the Summit, which led to an indefinite postponement of the Summit.

After the February 25, 2021 understanding between the DGMOs of the two countries to “strictly” observe all agreements, understandings and ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors, there has been signs of rapprochement, including the recent exchange of letters between prime ministers of the two countries, as well as resumption of talks under Indus Waters Treaty.

Pakistan’s delegation travelled to New Delhi to attend the 116th meeting of the India-Pakistan Permanent Indus Commission which was held in New Delhi from 23-24 March 2021.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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