Keen to block Indian initiatives at SAARC, Pakistan wants Secretariat's involvement

If the current COVID-19 talks happen under the SAARC umbrella sources said Islamabad is sure to block Indian initiatives and proposals using SAARC charter provisions, rules of procedures as it has done in the past. 

Keen to block Indian initiatives at SAARC, Pakistan wants Secretariat's involvement

New Delhi: While Pakistan has not been part of the SAARC commerce ministers video conference meeting that took place on April 8 (Wednesday) since SAARC secretariat wasn't present, it is now learnt that Pakistan is keen to involve the secretariat so that it can block Indian initiatives. Pakistan has been trying to bring all COVID-19 interaction, which is currently India-led, under formal SAARC platform by involving the SAARC secretariat.

If the current COVID-19 talks happen under the SAARC umbrella sources said Islamabad is sure to block Indian initiatives and proposals using SAARC charter provisions, rules of procedures as it has done in the past. Additionally, Pakistan will be keen on using consensus, an old tactic to stall agenda drafting, outcome documents and bring the situation to a stalemate, which cant be risked as the crisis spreads.

In the past, Islamabad had used the secretariat to block the initiative by New Delhi and blocked a major connectivity proposal--SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement, a key outcome of the last formal SAARC Summit that took place in Kathmandu in 2014.

Currently India-led activities, sources said, are events under COVID-19 crisis and New Delhi described these activities as stand-alone and outside the "SAARC calendar of approved activities". The aim is to jointly deal with the crisis in the region without being bound by procedural formalities and focus on the result.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March had called for a joint SAARC strategy to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and for which he had proposed a video conference. All the SAARC countries participated at heads of govt/states level barring Pakistan which was represented at a junior advisor level.

Since then two video meets have taken place on SAARC --Health officials and commerce officials, and the latter didn't have any Pakistani participation. Pakistan has also not contributed to SAARC COVID-19 emergency fund, in which all the countries of the region have announced contribution barring Islamabad.