Pakistan is aiming to score narrow political goals by attempting to bring India's initiatives to collectively fight the coronavirus pandemic in the SAARC region under the formal umbrella of the grouping, government sources said on Thursday. On Wednesday, Pakistan boycotted a video conference of trade officials of the SAARC countries to discuss ways to minimise the economic cost of the pandemic.
Islamabad said such initiatives could only be effective if spearheaded by the group's secretariat instead of India.
In such a scenario, the sources said, Pakistan will get a free hand to block India's initiatives and proposals by using the SAARC charter of provisions and rules of procedure.
"It is an attempt to score narrow political goals while people of the region are facing the coronavirus crisis," said a source on Thursday.
The trade officials of the SAARC countries on Wednesday 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 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.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional grouping comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
All the SAARC member nations are reeling under adverse social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.