External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said that elimination of terrorism in all its forms is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of the South Asian region.

“Ours is really not just a story of missed opportunities but also of deliberate obstacles. Terrorism is among them. In our view, elimination of terrorism in all its forms is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of our region itself,” Jaishankar said at the SAARC Foreign Ministers meet held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The diplomatic face-off between India and Pakistan flared up ahead of the UNGA sessions as the latter’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi failed to turn up for Jaishankar’s opening statement during the SAARC meeting.

Qureshi arrived only after Jaishankar had left the room and said that his country will not engage with India “until and unless they lift the siege” in Kashmir. When pressed further on his late arrival, Qureshi said he does not want to sit with the Indian minister as a mark of protest over Kashmir.

The official Twitter account of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, the ruling party, said of the boycott, “Pakistan will not engage with the butcher of Kashmir.”

Jaishankar, however, refused to comment on the absence of his Pakistani counterpart during his opening statement.

He had left the meeting after his speech and avoided coming face-to-face with Qureshi.

The meeting was presided over by Nepal, the current head of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and its other foreign ministers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated.

Tensions between the two countries have spiked since India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August. The decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian ambassador.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

Interactions between India and Pakistan at the SAARC has been strained because of Islamabad’s backing for terrorism.

India refused to participate in the SAARC summit in 2016 in Pakistan after a terrorist attack on an Army base in Kashmir. It was cancelled after Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan also decided not to attend.

Earlier on Wednesday, Jaishankar had asked how does one talk to Pakistan, which uses terrorism as a “large scale industry against its neighbour” and then follows a policy of “implausible deniability”, adding that it “cannot be terrorism by night and business as usual by day”.