Pakistan rejects India's accusation of politicising SAARC video conference on coronavirus

Islamabad [Pakistan], Mar 22 (ANI): Pakistan on Saturday rejected India;s accusation of politicising a humanitarian issue during the video conference of SAARC leaders over coronavirus threat on March 15, and termed the Indian contention as "misleading and mischievous".

"Pakistan rejects the Indian Ministry of External Affairs attempts to twist the remarks made by the Minister of State for Health, Zafar Mirza, at the COVID-19 video conference of the SAARC member countries on 15 March 2020. The Indian contention of 'politicization' of humanitarian issue is both misleading and mischievous," a statement by the spokesperson of Pakistan's foreign ministry said.

It said that its minister had drawn attention to the health emergency in Jammu and Kashmir in the context of coronavirus and had "underscored the need for lifting of restrictions on communications and ensuring access to medical supplies".

"In making this call, Pakistan has not been alone. Indeed, numerous voices from within Jammu and Kashmir, India, and the world are echoing the same message," the statement read.

This comes after Zafar Mirza had raised the Kashmir issue at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference to discuss the coronavirus situation, saying it is imperative that the lockdown in the region be lifted in view of the health emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Following the remark, India's Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday slammed Pakistan for misusing the platform to raise an issue that was totally irrelevant to the objective of the video conference.

"A crisis of this magnitude does not recognise borders. In this spirit, the Prime Minister had called the SAARC video-conference on coronavirus. The platform was not political, but humanitarian. They misused it," Kumar said on Pakistan raising Kashmir during the video-conference.

The statement from Pakistan further read, "The people of South Asia are well aware as to which country has been seeking to 'politicize' the SAARC process and continues to obstruct its onward march. Pakistan believes that the collective endeavours of South Asian nations to fight common challenges should not be allowed to become a victim of self-serving propaganda,"

A European foreign policy think tank had lambasted Islamabad by saying that the "misplaced and unwarranted political remarks" by Islamabad's representative served to take the country's image several notches lower among the co-members.

In its commentary, the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) had said that the "uncalled for" the statement from a country that has had an avowed disinclination to assist its own citizens stranded in COVID-19 hotspots came across as "crass, crude and cringeworthy".

The Think Tank remarked that at the time of a crisis situation screaming for unity and synchronisation, the best Pakistan could contribute to at the SAARC video conference were the seeds of division and discord.

The think-tank also criticised Imran Khan for not participating in the SAARC conference, saying that the move sent out a message to the international community that Pakistan did not want to engage with a "willing and keen India" even on a matter that had grave humanitarian implications for Pakistan's own people. (ANI)