ISLAMABAD : Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari invited for SCO foreign ministers’ meeting

ISLAMABAD : Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari invited for SCO foreign ministers’ meeting

ISLAMABAD : India has invited all member-states, including Pakistan, for the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting which it will host in Goa on May 4-5 this year. India currently holds the presidency of the Eurasian group, which is seen as playing a critical role for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and will also host the SCO summit in June for which too the government is expected to soon send out invites to the leaders of all member-states.

Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are also likely to participate in the meeting. It may turn out to be their second visit to India this year as they are also expected for the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting which the government will host on March 1-2.

Pakistan, which will go to polls later this year, is yet to take a call though on whether or not its foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will travel to India for the SCO meeting. If he does come, it will be the first ministerial visit by either side since then foreign minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Islamabad in December, 2015, for the Heart of Asia conference.

Swaraj was then also accompanied by foreign minister S Jaishankar who was then foreign secretary. The 2 countries used that opportunity to revive the dialogue process under the new name of comprehensive bilateral dialogue, leading to PM Narendra Modi’s visit to his then counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s home in Lahore a few weeks later.

The comprehensive bilateral dialogue failed to take off though because of the Pathankot airbase attack that took place barely a week after Modi’s Lahore visit. Official sources said that invite to Bilawal has no bearing on India’s position that Pakistan is yet to create the right conditions for resumption of bilateral dialogue between the 2 countries. India continues to maintain that dialogue is possible only in an environment free of terrorism and hostilities.

While Jaishankar and Bilawal had participated in the SCO foreign ministers meeting last year in Tashkent, there was no bilateral meeting between them.

The government, however, has also not allowed its differences with Islamabad to come in the way of cooperation under SCO and Indian officials have even travelled to Pakistan for anti-terror meetings held under the group’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).

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