In the first such high-level visit to India since 2011, Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived in Goa on Thursday to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
But he made it clear ahead of his departure from Islamabad that his visit should not be interpreted as a sign of improved bilateral relations with India and that he would be focussed on the eight-member SCO.
Bhutto Zardari’s trip comes amid continued strain in ties between India and Pakistan on a number of issues, including New Delhi’s allegation about Islamabad’s continued support to cross-border terrorism.
Also read: Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto to attend SCO meeting in India in May
“On my way to Goa, India. Will be leading the Pakistan delegation at the SCO. My decision to attend this meeting illustrates Pakistan’s strong commitment to the charter of the SCO,” Bhutto Zardari tweeted ahead of his arrival in India.
“During my visit, which is focused exclusively on the SCO, I look forward to constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries,” he added.
‘Committed to SCO’
On his arrival in Goa, the foreign minister said he was “happy” to attend the SCO. He said he expected the meeting of the foreign ministers to be successful.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Pakistan’s decision to attend the SCO meet reflected his country’s commitment to the group’s charter and multilateralism. “We are committed to playing our part to advance our shared values of peace and stability in the region,” Sharif said. “We are all for win-win understandings based on connectivity, trade and mutually advantageous cooperation,” he said.
Also read: Need to root out terrorism, hold those aiding it accountable: Rajnath Singh at SCO meet
Bhutto Zardari himself clarified that he had not sought a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He underlined that the visit should be seen in the context of the SCO, a political and security bloc which also includes Russia and China, media reports said. The minister stressed that Pakistan cannot allow India to further isolate it.
(With Agency inputs)