Today: Jun 19, 2024

Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrives in India to attend SCO meet

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Benaulim (Goa): Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived in Goa on Thursday to attend a conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the first such high-level visit to India from the neighbouring country since 2011.

Bhutto Zardari’s visit to India to attend the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting comes amid continued strain in ties between India and Pakistan on a number of issues including Islamabad’s continued support to “cross-border terrorism”.

People familiar with the conclave preparations said there is no plan for a bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Bhutto Zardari so far as there was no request for it from the Pakistani side.

“I am very happy to reach Goa to lead the Pakistani delegation at the SCO Foreign Ministers meeting. I expect the SCO CFM meeting to be successful,” Bhutto Zardari told reporters.

Before leaving for Goa, the Pakistani foreign minister said, “My decision to attend this meeting illustrates Pakistan’s strong commitment to the charter of the SCO.”

“During my visit, which is focused exclusively on the SCO, I look forward to constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries,” he said.

The Pakistan foreign minister’s visit to India is the first such trip from Islamabad since 2011. Then Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited India that year. Khar is currently serving as the minister of state for foreign affairs.

In May 2014, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited India to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

In December 2015, former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Pakistan, and days later Modi made a brief visit to that country.

The invitation to the Pakistan foreign minister to attend the SCO meeting was sent in January, days after Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered to hold bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.

In an interview with UAE-based Al Arabiya news channel, Sharif had 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.”

However, Pakistan’s 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 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 Balakot” in Pakistan in February 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

The relations further deteriorated after India in August 2019 announced the withdrawal of special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories.

Meanwhile, Pakistan PM Sharif said his country’s decision to attend the SCO foreign meeting in India reflects its “commitment” to the SCO Charter and multilateralism as he asserted that his country was committed to playing its part to advance its shared values of peace and stability in the region.

“We are committed to playing our part to advance our shared values of peace and stability in the region. We are all for win-win understandings based on connectivity, trade and mutually advantageous cooperation,” he further said.