Pakistan said on Thursday that no decision has been taken as yet on the visit of its Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to India to attend a high-level meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Bilawal and China’s Qin Gang are among the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member nations invited by India for the meeting it is scheduled to host in May. India is the current chair of the eight-nation SCO. Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Pakistan considers SCO as an important organisation and will continue to participate in all activities and constructively contribute to its outcomes.
“Regarding participation in the upcoming SCO Council of Foreign Ministers, as I have said earlier, the matter is under consideration and as and when this decision is taken, we will share it with everyone,” she said at the weekly briefing.
“Now, regarding the in-person participation that you have asked about, at this stage we do not have final decisions. When these decisions will be taken, we will share them with you. It is a bit early for me to speculate on these meetings,” she said.
If the Pakistani foreign minister attends the meeting in person, it will be the first such visit from Islamabad to India since 2011. Then Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited India that year. Khar is currently serving as the minister of state for foreign affairs.
In May 2014, then-Pakistan 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.
To a question about any update on the case Indian prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been behind the bars for more than seven years, Baloch said: “I have said before and I repeat again there is no progress in the case of the Indian terrorist who is in the custody of Pakistan.” Baloch also said Pakistan wants peace and dialogue in South Asia and its foreign policy is based on building partnerships for peace, friendship and prosperity in the region and beyond.
“We desire friendly ties with all our neighbors. We have also advocated constructive engagement and result-oriented dialogue with India on all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.
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.
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.
Baloch also said Khar will travel to Bahrain on March 10 to participate in the annual Manama Dialogue.
She will also undertake an official visit to the UK to attend the Commonwealth Day and Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM) from March 13-15 in London.
UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Markus Potzel is visiting Pakistan from March 9-10 to exchange views on the situation in Afghanistan, with a special focus on the humanitarian situation and international assistance for the Afghans, she added.
Baloch said two important dialogues will be held between Pakistan and the US next week in Islamabad, including the Energy Security Dialogue and the Climate and Environment Working Group meeting.
In the coming days, bilateral dialogues will be held with countries in East Asia including Australia, China, Japan, and Malaysia, she added.