Tuesday, 30 May, 2023

Pakistan FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrives in India for SCO meeting

Pakistan foreign minister Bhutto Zardari reached India’s Goa from Karachi to attend the SCO foreign ministers meeting at Taj Exotica Resort on Friday. He was received at the airport by joint secretary JP Singh, who heads the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk of the external affairs ministry.

He is also expected to join the other SCO foreign ministers at a cultural event and dinner to be hosted by external affairs minister S Jaishankar on Thursday.

In a brief video message posted ahead of his departure from Pakistan, Bhutto Zardari said he intended to interact bilaterally with his counterparts from SCO member states in Goa.

“Today, I am going to Goa in India, where I’m leading the Pakistani delegation to attend the SCO’s council of foreign ministers,” he said, speaking in a mix of English and Urdu.

“My going there sends a clear message of the importance attached to SCO by Pakistan and how seriously it takes its membership. I’m looking forward to engaging bilaterally with countries that are part of this organisation,” he said.

A tweet by the spokesperson of Pakistan’s Foreign Office said Bhutto Zardari will “meet with his counterparts of friendly countries on the sidelines” of the SCO meeting.

“Pakistan continues to constructively contribute in all SCO activities to realise its multi-sectoral aims and objectives in a mutually beneficial manner,” the spokesperson added in another tweet.

People familiar with the matter said there was no proposal for a bilateral meeting between Bhutto Zardari and Jaishankar. However, the possibility of the two ministers coming face to face at the dinner at Taj Exotica Resort on Thursday evening could not be ruled out.

The dinner, to be attended by the SCO foreign ministers and their delegations, is being seen as an event for networking.

India and Pakistan have not had any substantive dialogue or engagement since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. The 2019 Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 Indian troopers and the Indian government’s decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August of the same year took bilateral ties to an all-time low.

The last Indian foreign minister to visit Pakistan was the late Sushma Swaraj, who travelled to Islamabad in December 2015, and her trip was followed by a surprise visit to Lahore by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to meet his then-Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

At the time, Swaraj had held talks with Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister Sartaj Aziz and the two sides agreed to launch a new 10-point comprehensive bilateral dialogue. However, the dialogue could not take off because of a string of terror attacks that followed soon after and were blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Source: Hindustan Times