Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday reiterated Pakistan's "commitment to the Saarc process and express the hope that the hiatus created in its continuous progression would be removed, thus enabling the Saarc nations to forge ahead on the path of regional cooperation for development and to achieve their full potential."
In his message on the 35th Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Charter Day, the PM said, "Pakistan is a firm believer in the strength and potential of regional cooperation for individual, national and regional development. Pakistan further believes that effective and result-oriented regional cooperation can be achieved only by adhering to the cardinal principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect as enshrined in the Saarc Charter."
In an official statement, the PM said that the December 8 "Marks the day when leaders with vision and foresight adopted the Saarc Charter and pledged to work together for the progress and prosperity of South Asia. This day reminds us of the enormous responsibility placed on our shoulders by our peoples, and their expectations from their leaders to address the common challenges of poverty, illiteracy, disease and under-development."
Founded on December 8, 1985, Saarc, an eight-member regional body, has earned the reputation of being dominated by India's influence.
Pakistan, India, Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan are the members of Saarc.
It is worth mentioning here that the last Saarc Summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November 2016 was cancelled after India pulled out of the summit in the backdrop of heightened tension between the two South Asian neighbours after an attack at a military base in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IHK).
Other Saarc members including Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan also declined to attend the summit citing security concerns.
This year too, Pak-India relationship has seen increased hostility. Ties between the two countries are at the lowest ebb since August 5 this year when Indian parliament deprived the IHK of the special autonomous status it enjoyed for decades, with the repealing of Article 370.
Since then, Pakistan has taken a number of initiatives to respond to this move including suspension of bilateral trade with India, expulsion of Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria, denial of Pakistan's airspace to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and PM Modi, suspension of Samjhauta Express and Thar Express train services, convening a joint session of the parliament against Indian parliament's repealing of Article 370 among other measures.
In September this year, the PM slammed his Indian counterpart and his government for serious atrocities coupled with grave human rights violations in IoK in a hard-hitting speech delivered at UN General Assembly that has earned wide public applause in Pakistan.
Prior to this move, a consultative session of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on IoK, held in August, the first ever in the last 54 years, is also regarded as a success for Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2019