The Ministry of External Affairs, Thursday issued a sharp rebuttal to Pakistan's anti-India tirade at a special meeting of foreign ministers of south Asian nations.
Pakistan had raked up India's decision to remove special autonomous powers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), a forum formed to discuss cooperative security order in Asia. India, however, used its right to reply to reiterate that all matters concerning the now Union Territory are India's sovereign matters, and Islamabad has no locus standi to comment on such matters.
Issuing India's reply to remarks made by Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the MEA that his comments "constitute gross interference in India's internal affairs, sovereignty and territorial integrity".
Qureshi was also among the participants of the SAARC meeting, which was organised in continuation of a tradition of informal exchanges among the foreign ministers of the grouping on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The 75th session of the UN General Assembly is currently underway.
"Unfortunately, Pakistan has misused another forum by continuing its spurious narrative about India. The Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and will remain an integral part of India. Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India's internal affairs."
"Pakistan's remarks today constitute gross interference in India's internal affairs, sovereignty and territorial integrity which is inconsistent with the CICA Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations between the CICA Member States of September 1999," the statement said.
It added, "Pakistan is the global epicentre of terrorism and continues to be the source of terrorist activities in India. We advise Pakistan to cease its sponsorship and overt and covert support to terrorism against India. This will enable the two countries to engage and address issues bilaterally rather than distract this important forum from its agenda."
The CICA is an inter-governmental forum to boost cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. It has 27 countries as its members.
External Affairs minister S Jaishankar, who attended the meeting on India's behalf, said the association must "overcome three key challenges of cross-border terrorism, blocking of connectivity and obstruction in trade".
"Underlined India's commitment to a pluralistic cooperative security order in Asia through CICA. This is needed more than ever before," Jaishankar tweeted after the CICA meeting.
In the virtual meeting, Jaishankar also called for greater collective efforts to counter terrorism and its sponsors. "Reaffirmed India's support for Afghan peace process that respects its national sovereignty & territorial integrity and preserves its democratic progress," he added.
Jaishankar, who was also part of another meeting of foreign ministers of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) grouping, criticised Pakistan without naming the country. He called for a collective resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage it.
Jaishankar also reaffirmed India's commitment to its 'Neighbourhood First' policy and towards building a connected, integrated and prosperous South Asia.
The external affairs minister said SAARC has made significant progress over the last 35 years but the efforts towards collective collaboration and prosperity have been hampered by acts of terrorism and threats to national security.
"Such an environment impedes our shared objective of realising the full potential of our collective endeavour. It is therefore crucial that we collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage it," he was quoted as saying by MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava in a series of tweets.
Jaishankar said such an approach will generate the much-needed trust and confidence to collectively build a stronger and prosperous SAARC.
Besides India and Pakistan, the SAARC grouping comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
"Addressed the #SAARC Foreign Ministers Informal Meeting today. Reaffirmed India's commitment to Neighbourhood First policy and towards building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia," Jaishankar tweeted.
"Cross-border terrorism, blocking connectivity and obstructing trade are three key challenges that SAARC must overcome. Only then will we see enduring peace, prosperity and security in our South Asia region," he added.
Pakistan had blocked a key connectivity initiative under SAARC framework six years back besides obstructing trade among the member nations.
SAARC has not been very effective since 2016 as its biennial summits have not taken place since the last one in Kathmandu in 2014.
The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on 18 September that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to "prevailing circumstances".
The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.
With inputs from agencies