New Delhi: India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is to have a series of multilateral meetings on Thursday with her counterparts from Brazil and South Africa as well as other BRICS nations and those from South Asia at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The most-watched of these will be Swaraj’s meeting with her counterparts from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) which will include her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. This comes after India called off talks with Pakistan after agreeing to a meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi.

In recent years, Saarc countries have increasingly complained that the reason the grouping has little to show for itself in terms of economic progress and cooperation in regional connectivity is because of hostile relations between India and Pakistan, two of its largest members.

India on 21 September called off the proposed foreign minister-level talks with Pakistan in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly following the abduction and killing of three Jammu and Kashmir police personnel. Any talks with Pakistan will be meaningless as the neighbour would not mend its ways, India had then said. The Indian government cited two “deeply disturbing" events as reasons for cancellation of the talks which included “brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism". Some of these stamps show Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian security forces in 2016.

India in 2016 refused to attend a summit of Saarc leaders due in Islamabad over Pakistan’s support to terrorist activities in India. Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan had also refused to attend—scuttling the summit. With a new government in place in Pakistan headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the country is seen to be keen to hold the Saarc summit and the idea has gained support from Nepal, the current chair of Saarc as well as countries like Maldives.

According to former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, India’s attendance of the foreign ministerial Saarc meet is consistent with its position of not “disowning Saarc" but he expressed doubts over whether the meeting will produce a breakthrough between India and Pakistan.

Queering the pitch was Pakistan raising the issue of alleged human rights violations in Kashmir at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meet on the sidelines of the UNGA as well as during a bilateral meeting with the British foreign secretary.

“We have said in the past that OIC has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal affairs," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar was quoted as saying by PTI.

At the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting, a key proposal which is expected to be discussed is the five countries doing trade among themselves in their currencies instead of the dollar, given that the US is looking to tighten sanctions on Russia for various alleged offences such as trying to influence the 2016 US presidential vote. “There is a good case to look at this (proposal) but there are some weaknesses given that some of the BRICS currencies are not fully convertible," Sibal said.

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