Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has claimed that country was not a part of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) trade officials discussion since the SAARC Secretariat was not part of the video conference. The discussion was organized by India.
The conference was convened to discuss the impact of coronavirus in the region and how the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) forum could come up with a common strategy.
In the virtual conference, the trade officials broadly agreed to identify new ways to "sustain and expand" the intra-regional trade to offset the huge economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic.
The deliberations took place as a follow up to an India-initiated video conference of SAARC leaders on March 15. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested in the conference that the member nations of the bloc should come together to jointly fight the pandemic.
Shortly after the conference, Pakistan's Foreign Office in a statement said, "Activities such as today's Trade Officials' Video-Conference could only be effective if spearheaded by the SAARC Secretariat. Since the SAARC Secretariat was not part of today's Video-Conference, Pakistan chose not to participate." "The role of the secretariat assumes further salience in emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's wider social and economic fallout," the Foreign Office added.
The SAARC is a grouping comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
In the meeting, SAARC countries broadly agreed to identify new ways to "sustain and expand" the intra-regional trade to offset the huge economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic. The officials also deliberated on creating a larger framework of trade facilitation and highlighted the need to enhance the quantum of intra SAARC trade as the pandemic is likely to have a considerable impact on the region, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
This is the second SAARC meeting in a month after PM Modi called for a meeting and a discussion to fight coronavirus collectively.