Pakistan announced on Thursday, 20 April that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto would visit India next month and will lead Pakistan's delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign minister's meet in Goa.
Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahrah Baloch said, "Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be leading the Pakistan delegation to the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) being held on May 4-5, 2023, in Goa, India."
Notably, Bilawal Bhutto's visit to India will be the first by any Pakistani leader since former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2014.
"Our participation in the meeting reflects Pakistan's commitment to the SCO Charter and processes and the importance that Pakistan accords to the region in its foreign policy priorities," Baloch added during a press briefing.
A Turning Point in Indo-Pak Relations?
India and Pakistan relations have been on a downward spiral since 2016, particularly since Pakistani-sponsored terror attacks in Pathankot (January 2016), Uri (September 2016), and Pulwama (February 2019).
India's decision to revoke the special status of J&K in August 2019 has also dented the relationship considerably, as it led to the downgrading of diplomatic relations and a complete halt to trading and cross-border bus and train services.
A glimmer of hope for a thaw in relations was seen in August 2015, when India invited the then Pakistani foreign minister Sartaj Aziz for talks. However, the meeting was cancelled after the then external affairs minister, the late Sushma Swaraj, asked Aziz not to meet members of the separatist Hurriyat Conference in India.
Swaraj was also the last Indian external affairs minister to have visited Pakistan in December 2015 to attend the Heart of Asia conference.
There are, however, a few positives in the relationship considering where it stands today. For one, a ceasefire that was inked between the two countries in February 2021 has been successfully observed even almost two years after it was signed. Furthermore, the Indus Waters Treaty is being respected by both sides, and there has been no disruption in religious pilgrimages through the Kartarpur Corridor.Expand
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a regional bloc consisting of Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and four Observer States (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia) and six Dialogue Partners – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. India joined as a full member in June 2017.
Established over two decades ago, the SCO aims to promote economic, political, and military cooperation among its members.
With a population representing around 42% of the world and 25% of global GDP, the SCO is a significant regional powerhouse. The foreign ministers of the SCO member states are scheduled to hold a meeting in Goa, where they are expected to discuss various issues related to the organisation's objectives.
PM Modi had attended the SCO Summit in Uzbekistan. The 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO in September 2022 was the first in-person summit since the June 2019 meeting of the SCO leaders in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.