Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Is Invited By India To The SCO Conference
Although Pakistan has not yet accepted the invitation, analysts believe that since it is a part of a global meeting, it won’t result in a warming of relations.
Pakistan has accepted India’s offer for its foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, to go to India in May for a conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
India has requested Bhutto-Zardari to join the foreign ministers’ meeting of the eight-member regional grouping, according to Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry at a weekly briefing on Thursday, but no decision has yet been taken.
“India and Pakistan are both SCO members. India has extended us an invitation since it is hosting the conference this year and serves as the chairman. Review of the invitation is ongoing. After consideration, a decision will be made on attendance at the meeting, Baloch informed the reporters.
If Pakistan accepts the invitation, it would be the first time in over 12 years that its foreign minister visits India.
China, Russia, and four other central Asian nations—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—are also SCO members.
Following Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s invitation to India for discussions over unresolved problems, particularly Kashmir, Indian media announced on Wednesday that Pakistan has been invited to join the summit in May.
India’s foreign ministry said last week that India wants regular ties in a “conducive climate” in response to Sharif’s remarks. The two nuclear powers both claim the whole Himalayan region of Kashmir, yet they each only control portions of it. Two of the three full-scale conflicts between the South Asian foes since 1947 have been fought over the disputed area.
India’s capital, New Delhi, has charged Islamabad with supporting the armed insurgents in Kashmir who are vying for either independence or a union with Pakistan.
Islamabad has refuted the accusations, claiming that all it does is back the region’s fight for the right to self-determination diplomatically.
Bhutto-Zardari received the invitation after referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “Butcher of Gujarat” during a media discussion at the UN last month in reference to Modi’s alleged involvement in violence against Muslims in Indian Gujarat in 2022.
More than 1,000 people, most of whom were Muslims, died as a consequence of assaults on Muslims in Gujarat when Modi was the state’s chief minister. Rights organisations estimate 2,000 deaths.
India was outraged by Bhutto’s remark, and Zardari’s and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called for a nationwide demonstration against Pakistan in response to his “shameful and demeaning” remarks.
The Indian government described the comments as “uncivilised” and claimed they were “a new low, even for Pakistan.”
Since India unilaterally withdrew Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019, which gave the Indian-administered Kashmir special status, ties between the two countries have deteriorated.
India has been charged by Pakistan with committing severe human rights abuses in the area with a majority of Muslims.
However, the two nations extended a two-decade-old ceasefire deal along the Line of Control, a 724 km (450 mph) boundary that separates Kashmir between them, in February 2021.
Inviting Pakistan to the SCO summit was something India did, according to Professor Ajay Darshan Behera of the Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. However, he cautioned against reading too much into the invitation.
“Host nations have a responsibility to invite all participating nations to multilateral organisations like the SCO. Because of our problems with them, there is no way India would decline to invite Pakistan’s foreign minister, he told Al Jazeera.
“Both nations participate in international meetings where they are members, but bilateral meetings have not taken place in recent years, especially after the two countries’ ties deteriorated further after the repeal of Article 370 in Kashmir.”
Detente Prospects Are Slim
Mosharraf Zaidi of the Islamabad-based Tabadlab think tank agreed, stating that there would be no softening of ties between the neighbours as a result of the invitation to the summit.
“There hasn’t really been an ‘invite’. It is not possible for the foreign minister of an SCO member state to attend a SCO meeting. These inquiries will resurface at the SCO conference, in which heads of state or governments from SCO nations are anticipated to participate, Zaidi said Al Jazeera.
“A detente in ties between Pakistan and India is exceedingly unlikely, then as today. India, and India alone, must ultimately decide how to improve the situation in the area, he said.
Sharif and Modi both travelled to Uzbekistan for the preceding SCO leaders’ conference in September 2022.
Behera, however, said that given Pakistan’s present economic circumstances as well as the lack of agreement among the political elite and the military, the country is unable to take any measures.
“In a recent interview, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that his country has learned its lessons and is ready to cooperate. But shortly after, a statement from Sharif’s office added that pressing matters like Article 370 and Kashmir must come first.
I don’t believe the present leadership in India would be openly interested or want to be viewed as interacting with Pakistan in light of these muddled signals from Pakistan, he added.