Representational Pic
Representational Pic

Kathmandu: Despite heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over the changed constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir, both neighbours have agreed to participate in the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting at Foreign Minister level scheduled to be held on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York next month.

Pakistan is upset with the Indian government's move to strip the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and has found itself completely isolated despite desperate attempts to internationalise the issue.

Against this backdrop, the participation of the two countries in the meeting chaired by Nepal can result in some positives, officials familiar with the development told the Kathmandu Post.

India and Pakistan have already sent their concurrence to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat in Kathmandu, the officials added.

Though the meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers is an annual affair and usually takes place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, this time, there were speculations it might not happen due to escalating diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan.

The 18th SAARC summit was held in Kathmandu in 2014 and Pakistan was to host the next summit in 2016. The 19th SAARC Summit failed to take place since India decided to pull out of it in 2016 following a terrorist attack in Uri, Kashmir, which killed 19 people.

Other countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, also walked out following India's decision to exit the summit to step up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. India, the largest member of SAARC forum, has said it will participate in future summits if Pakistan took steps to tackle terrorism.

Nepal has not issued any official statement, but Foreign Minister Gyawali told the media earlier this month that both the nations should engage in dialogue for regional peace and stability.

"It is an informal meeting, and no structured agendas are being tabled," Arjun Bahadur Thapa, former secretary-general of SAARC, was quoted as saying.

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