In a move that is likely to open up the bilateral space, India Thursday said New Delhi will invite the heads of government of all member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) when it hosts the summit later this year.
This would mean that Pakistan’s representative — either Prime Minister Imran Khan or a Minister — will be coming to India to attend the SCO heads of government meeting.
India and Pakistan became members of the SCO in 2017, and India usually sends its Foreign or Defence ministers to attend the SCO heads of government meetings. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the heads of state summit, as also Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2019, too, Modi attended the SCO heads of state meeting, which was attended by Khan along with Xi and Putin among others, in Bishkek in June. At that summit, Modi and Khan did not engage in a bilateral meeting.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had attended the SCO heads of government meeting in Tashkent in October 2019.
New Delhi said all eight members and four observer states of SCO will be invited for the regional summit.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “India will be hosting the heads of government summit later this year. As per established practice and procedure, all eight members and four observer states and other international dialogue partners will be invited… all eight members will be invited.”
The SCO is a China-led economic and security bloc founded in 2001 by Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
If Khan comes for the meeting, this will be the first opportunity for the Indian government to host him after he became Prime Minister in 2018. Even if a ministerial-level representative comes from Pakistan, a call on to the Prime Minister is expected to be a component of the summit.
Following bilateral tensions, which worsened after India removed Article 370 in J&K, the two sides do not have full-time envoys to each other’s capitals, and the missions are manned by the deputy high commissioners.
India has consistently maintained that “talks and terror” cannot go together, and that Pakistan must take “credible, verifiable, irreversible and visible” action against terrorist infrastructure in he territory under its control.
Delhi has ratcheted up the pressure in the last couple of years, and the international community has tightened the screws on Pakistan by putting it on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Faced with a dire economic situation, Islamabad has also hardened its stance against India, and its anti-India rhetoric has intensified after the Kashmir move on August 5. It has tried to lobby with the international community on Kashmir, including at the UN.
The government’s announcement Thursday comes hours after Pakistan’s efforts to raise J&K at the United Nations Security Council through China failed as most members of the UNSC said it was not the “right” place to discuss the issue. This was China’s third initiative to hold a closed-door meeting to discuss J&K at the UNSC.
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