Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto to attend SCO meeting in India in May

Bilawal Bhutto
Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a file photo. Image: Twitter/ANI

On Thursday, Pakistan announced that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would participate in the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) meeting in India next month. Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahrah Baloch announced this at a weekly media briefing.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will lead the Pakistani delegation to the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Goa, India, on 4-5 May 2023, she said, ending weeks-long speculation about whether he would attend the conference in person. She also said that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had invited the Pakistan foreign minister to attend the SCO meeting.

“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 said. This visit could be the highest-level visit to India by any Pakistani leader in recent years and a possible opportunity to break the ice between the two nations.

India and Pakistan became permanent members of the Beijing-based SCO in 2017. 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 become one of the largest trans-regional international organisations.

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 announced the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special powers and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into Union territories in August 2019.