Islamabad: Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari left for India on Thursday to attend a key multilateral meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation scheduled to take place in Goa on May 4 and 5.
Bhutto Zardari, who would be the first foreign minister to visit India since 2011, is leading the Pakistan delegation to the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Beijing-based Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The Foreign Office (FO) has said that the invitation to the Pakistan Foreign Minister to attend the SCO-CFM was extended by India’s Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar, as the current chair of the SCO.
Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson for FO, said that Bilawal had departed for Goa from Karachi.
“FM @BBhuttoZardari departs from #Karachi to participate in the #SCO Council of Foreign Ministers,” the spokesperson tweeted with a picture of his departure.
Upon Pakistan’s request, Bhutto Zardari was granted special permission by the Indian civil aviation authority to use the Indian airspace, Duniya TV reported.
“On my way to Goa, India. Will be leading the Pakistan delegation at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization CFM. My decision to attend this meeting illustrates Pakistan’s strong commitment to the charter of the SCO,” Bhutto Zardari tweeted before his departure.
“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 Foreign Minister of Pakistan Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will also meet with his counterparts of friendly countries on the sidelines of the CFM,” the FO said recently.
Pakistan has said that the Pakistani foreign minister would not hold any meeting with his Indian counterpart.
The visit is highly symbolic as it is the first by any Pakistani Foreign Minister since Hina Rabbani Khar travelled to India in July 2011 for peace talks.
The FO also said that in addition to deliberating upon important regional and international issues and signing some of the institutional documents, the CFM would finalise the agenda and decisions to be adopted by the 17th SCO Council of Heads of State Meeting scheduled to take place in New Delhi on July 3 and 4.
The CFM will also witness the signing of MoUs with five countries namely Bahrain, Kuwait Maldives, Myanmar and UAE to become Dialogue Partners of the SCO.
Besides Pakistan, SCO member states include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and India.
Since becoming a member in 2017, Pakistan has been actively and constructively contributing to all SCO activities to realise its multi-sectoral aims and objectives in a mutually beneficial manner, the FO said.
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 announced the withdrawal of special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories in 2019.