India sends invitation to Pak, Chinese and other foreign ministers of SCO countries for high-level meet in Goa

NewsDrum Desk
25 Jan 2023

New Delhi, Jan 25 (PTI) Pakistan's Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and China's Qin Gang are among the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member nations invited by India for a high-level meeting it is scheduled to host in May, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The meeting of the SCO foreign ministers are expected to take place in the first week of May in Goa.

The invitation to Bhutto Zardari was delivered by the Indian high commission in Islamabad, the people cited above said.

It is learnt that an invitation was also delivered to the Pakistani chief justice's office for the meeting of the SCO states' chief justices to be hosted by India in March.

India is the current chair of the eight-nation SCO.

There is no indication yet on whether Bhutto Zardari will attend the meeting.

The people cited above said the invitations were sent as part of the laid down procedure.

If the Pakistani foreign minister decides to attend the meeting in person, then it will be the first such visit from Islamabad to India since 2011. The then Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar had visited India that year.

Khar is currently serving as the minister of state for foreign affairs in the Pakistani government.

In May 2014, then Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited India to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony.

In December 2015, the then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Pakistan and days later, Modi made a brief visit to the neighbouring country.

The invitation to Bhutto Zardari was sent days after Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered to hold bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.

In an interview with the UAE-based Al Arabiya news channel, Sharif said Pakistan has learnt its lesson after three wars with India and now, it wants to live in peace with India, if "we are able to resolve our genuine problems".

"We have had three wars with India and they only brought more misery, poverty and unemployment to the people," Sharif said.

"My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister (Modi) is that let us sit down at the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues like Kashmir, where flagrant violations of human rights are taking place day in and day out," he said.

However, the Pakistani Prime Minister's Office later said negotiations are not possible without India revoking its 2019 actions on Kashmir.

India has been maintaining that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan, while insisting that the onus is on Islamabad to create an environment that is free of terror and hostility for such an engagement.

The ties between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after India's warplanes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot in February 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

The relations further deteriorated after India in August 2019 announced the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir's special powers and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into Union territories.

It is learnt that invitations for the SCO summit will be sent to the leaders of all member states.

The dates for the summit are yet to be firmed up.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Over the years, it has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017. PTI MPB RC

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