ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said that Pakistan is committed to regional cooperation, especially with the South Asian for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), but India is a hurdle in flourishing of the organisation. He expressed these views on Friday in a meeting with Arjun Bahadur Thapa, the outgoing secretary general of SAARC, who is on a visit to pay a farewell call. Sources informed Daily Times that Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan wanted development and cooperation between South Asian nations. “But India has hegemonic designs, which are impediments in the economic development and prosperity of the region.” He said that Pakistan was committed to regional cooperation under the umbrella of SAARC for the welfare of South Asians, improving their quality of life, economic progress and social uplift. He said that due to several impediments and challenges, SAARC had been unable to fulfil the vision that was laid out for it by its founding members. He believed that the SAARC Secretariat could play an important role of a catalyst to bring all the member states together and ensure timely and effective implementation of programmes and activities that would benefit the region. Sartaj Aziz expressed that Pakistan was looking forward to welcoming SAARC leaders for the 19th summit that was scheduled for November in Islamabad but was postponed when India impeded the SAARC process and violated the spirit of the SAARC Charter. “Pakistan remains committed to hosting the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad at the earliest so that the objectives of regional cooperation under the SAARC umbrella can be pursued more vigorously.” SAARC Secretary General Thapa emphasised the need to overcome the difficulties that the organisation faced and expressed the hope that the 19th SAARC Summit would be held in Islamabad as soon as possible. He also held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry. The foreign secretary appreciated Secretary General Thapa’s contributions to the SAARC process and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the SAARC objectives. The foreign secretary also emphasised that internal and bilateral problems of member states must not be allowed to affect the organisation and that the 19th SAARC Summit should be held as soon as possible to put the whole SAARC process back on track. On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asia Pacific Additional Secretary Syed Zulfiqar Gardezi hosted a lunch for the secretary general, which was also attended by SAARC secretary general-elect Amjad Hussian Sial. Thapa, who hails from Nepal, is the 12th secretary general of the organisation. He completes his tenure on February 28, 2017. It may be mentioned here that in an expected spoiler, India decided to pull out of November’s SAARC summit in Islamabad. The announcement came amid growing tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours following the attack on an Indian army base in Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan had offered dialogue to India for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, but the offer was rejected. Islamabad had also formally extended an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the Pakistan-hosted 19th SAARC summit. Meanwhile, all eight member states of SAARC are scheduled to gather in Kathmandu on February 1-2 – for the first time since the summit was postponed – to discuss pressing issues, including cross-border terrorism and absence of pan-South Asia connectivity projects that hamper smooth functioning of the grouping. Senior diplomats of India, Pakistan and other six member nations will discuss the way forward for SAARC, a senior official told the Economic Times. Nepal, the current chair of SAARC, has convened a meeting of the programme committee of the association in Kathmandu, where diplomats from the member countries are likely to discuss ways to end the stalemate over the 19th summit, apart from scheduling events to be held by the organisation in the coming months.