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Maldives summit ends after row between Indian and Pakistani lawmakers

The row erupted when Pakistan’s deputy speaker raised the issue of Kashmir.



The fourth South Asian Speakers’ Summit ended in the Maldives capital on Monday after the adoption of the Malé Declaration on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The high-level summit was focused on the SDGs but was overshadowed by a spat between Indian and Pakistani lawmakers over the disputed region of Kashmir.

The row erupted during a plenary session on Sunday when Pakistani Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri referred to the situation of Kashmiris “who are facing oppression and injustice” after India revoked the special status of the Muslim-majority state. The remarks prompted Deputy Speaker Harivansh Narayan Singh to object to the raising of “internal matters of India” and the “politicisation of the forum by raising issues which are extraneous to the theme of the summit.”

In response, Pakistan Senator Quratulain Marri contended that “atrocities being meted out in Kashmir” were relevant because the SDG’s could not be achieved without human rights.

After Suri completed his speech, MP Singh raised a further point of order and accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism, drawing an angry response from Senator Marri. Heated exchanges ensued between the respective delegations and descended into a shouting match.

Chairing the session, Maldives Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and Inter-Parliamentary Union Secretary-General Martin Chungong tried in vain to restore calm as the sparring continued. The chair eventually adjourned proceedings for a lunch break.

The fracas was widely reported in Indian and Pakistani media. Tensions have been running high between the nuclear-armed neighbours as Kashmir remains under lockdown after New Delhi stripped away the state’s autonomy and repealed laws that blocked non-residents from buying land.

After a closed-door roundtable meeting of speakers, the two-day summit meanwhile ended on Monday with the adoption of the Malé declaration, a document with a summary of conclusions and “actionable and goal-oriented” recommendations on achieving the SDGs.

Hosted at the People’s Majlis building in Malé, the annual summit was organised jointly by the IPU and the Maldives parliament with a series of interactive panel discussions on equal pay, youth employment, nutrition, food security and climate change.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih attended a banquet hosted by Speaker Nasheed for the participants on Sunday night. Prior to their departure, the senior lawmakers travelled to the island of Rasdhoo in Alif Alif atoll for a field visit.