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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Pakistan FM Bilawal Bhutto departs for India for SCO meeting


 Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari departed for Goa on Thursday via a special plane to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting.

Ahead of his departure, Bilawal — the first Pakistani foreign minister to head to India in over a decade, said on Twitter that he is looking forward to “engaging bilaterally” with countries that are part of the SCO.

“On my way to Goa, India. Will be leading the Pakistan delegation at the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers. My decision to attend this meeting illustrates Pakistan’s strong commitment to the charter of SCO,” he posted on Twitter.

“During my visit, which is focused exclusively on the SCO, I look forward to constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries,” he said.

Bilawal Bhutto had consulted with political leaders before departing for India via a special flight from Karachi to Goa.

The Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) completed all preparations for his flight. Bilawal travelled from Islamabad to Karachi for his departure to India, reports said.

The Pakistan Foreign Minister had telephoned Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddique, Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq, Balochistan National Party (BNP) chief Akhtar Mengal, Balochistan National Party leader Tahir Banjo and took them into confidence regarding his participation SCO summit in India.

Bilawal’s trip will be the first visit to India by a foreign minister of Pakistan since July 2011, when then-foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited for peace talks.

Pakistan has already made it clear that the foreign minister during his Goa visit will not hold any bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart.

The Pakistan foreign minister has also dismissed speculation surrounding his upcoming trip, saying it should not be interpreted as a sign of improved bilateral ties between the two neighbouring countries.

Bilawal clarified that he had not requested for a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emphasising that the visit should be seen in the context of the SCO, which is an eight-member political and security bloc that also includes Russia and China. He stressed that Pakistan cannot allow India to further isolate it, Dawn reported.

In addition to deliberating upon important regional and international issues and signing some of the institutional documents, the Council of Foreign Ministers will 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 3-4, 2023.

According to sources, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has completed the arrangements for the flight.

Bilawal is scheduled to arrive in Goa at 5 pm.

During a weekly press conference last week, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch stated that Bhutto is attending the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting at the invitation of India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. “Our participation at the meeting reflects Pakistan’s continued commitment to the SCO charter and process and the importance that Pakistan accords to the region in its foreign policy priorities,” the spokesperson said.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was formed in 2001. Its members include India, Russia, China, Pakistan, and four central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.

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