New Delhi: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday sought to isolate Pakistan on terrorism, and piling pressure on Islamabad at a meeting of South Asian foreign ministers, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Islamabad, on its part, accused India of impeding the region’s progress and prosperity, and adding to the tensions with India calling off talks between Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi last week, a day after accepting the proposal.

In her speech at a meeting of the foreign ministers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries in New York, Swaraj stressed that an atmosphere of peace and security—an oblique reference to Pakistan’s support to terrorism—was a prerequisite for economic development and cooperation in South Asia.

She also suggested that meetings, such as Saarc summits, were useful only if “expressions of resolve are translated into concrete action on the ground". Pakistan was to host the Saarc Summit in 2016, but India had pulled out accusing Pakistan of supporting anti-India terrorist groups.

In her comments, Swaraj recalled the steps India had taken to forge closer ties with its neighbours starting with the “Neighbourhood First" policy, under which India has given top billing to ties with its neighbours.

“India is committed to regional cooperation. We attach highest priority to the development and prosperity of our region under our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. Our commitment to sharing our progress with our neighbours was best articulated by the vision outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th Saarc Summit."

“India is willing to share the fruits of its economic, scientific and technological progress with the South Asian community. We have taken various initiatives, including asymmetrical responsibilities for enhancing regional cooperation under SAARC." Swaraj highlighted several initiatives including the South Asia Satellite, South Asian University and Saarc Disaster Management Centre.

Lamenting the lack of progress in boosting connectivity and region cooperation, Swaraj warned: “The world is moving ahead to become more integrated and connected where movement of goods and people is becoming easier with each passing day. Saarc needs to deliver on its commitments or risk being left behind." The comment can be seen as a rebuke to Pakistan for holding back progress on two Saarc pacts—motor vehicle movement and railway freight.

Swaraj spoke of the need for “an environment of peace and security", which she said was “essential for regional cooperation to progress and achieve economic development and prosperity".

“The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia are on the rise. Terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in our region and, indeed, in the world. It is necessary that we eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination, and end the ecosystem of its support," she said in a reference to charges by India and Afghanistan that Pakistan is a haven for terrorist groups.

Swaraj left the meeting after delivering her speech, which was followed by Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s remarks, a PTI report said.

“We have to decide the next step. I have no hesitation in saying that in the way of Saarc’s progress and in the way of the region’s connectivity and prosperity, there is only one obstruction and one attitude. The attitude of one nation is making the spirit of Saarc and the spirit of the founding fathers of Saarc unfulfilled," Qureshi said, without naming India.

Later talking to reporters, Qureshi said Swaraj had talked about regional cooperation but “my question is how will regional cooperation be possible when the regional nations are ready to sit together but you are the obstruction in that dialogue and discussion." Qureshi said a majority of Saarc members were disappointed because “if you do not sit and convene meetings how do you move on?".

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