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The Foreign Office (FO) has rejected on Friday the "false claims and tendentious remarks" made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson regarding the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Pakistan had extended India an invitation to attend the next SAARC summit in Islamabad, adding that New Delhi could join the moot virtually if it did not want to attend in-person.

Reacting to Qureshi’s statement, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday that everyone was ‘aware of the background’ regarding why the summit had not been held since 2014.

“There has been no material change in the situation since then. Therefore, there is still no consensus that would permit holding of the summit,” he was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

However, FO spokesperson Asim Iftikhar categorically rejected the "false claims" and said that India’s obstruction of the SAARC process was an established fact.

“Motivated by its partisan reasons, and acting in violation of charter provisions requiring exclusion of bilateral issues, India was responsible for stymieing the 19th SAARC Summit scheduled to take place in Pakistan in 2016.”

The spokesperson added that India’s myopic attitude was rendering a valuable platform for regional cooperation increasingly dysfunctional.

“Pakistan hoped that India would review its self-serving approach and enable the SAARC process to move forward for the progress and prosperity of the people of South Asia,” he said, adding that Pakistan is ready to host the summit as soon as the artificial obstacles created in its way were removed.

SAARC sessions have not taken place since 2014. The 19th summit, scheduled to be held in 2016 in Islamabad, was canceled at the last minute after India pulled out, blaming Pakistan for an attack on its army brigade in Uri.

Under the SAARC charter, a meeting of the heads of government cannot be held if any one of the member states does not join.

Meanwhile, the FO spokesperson added that no amount of obfuscation and misrepresentation by the Indian officials could hide India’s state terrorism in IIOJK.

“The egregious violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people had been extensively documented by the international human rights machinery, including in the two Kashmir reports issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2018 and 2019.”

He said Pakistan had shared several dossiers with the international community on India’s unabated human rights abuses in IIOJK, he added.

“India must abjure the use of state-terrorism as an instrument of policy. Pakistan will continue to resolutely oppose Indian machinations and expose its anti-peace agenda imperiling regional peace and security.”

According to the spokesperson, “India must recognise the reality of the just, legitimate and indigenous Kashmiri struggle, respect the wishes of the Kashmiri people, and grant them their inalienable right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Charter and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

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