India has invited Pakistan’s Foreign Minister to a meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) that it is hosting in May.
Sources in Pakistan confirmed that their Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has received the invite, though Islamabad is yet to take a decision.
Just a month ago, comments by Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a UN Security Council meeting had sparked anger and protests in India. India called Bilawal Zardari’s comments “uncivilised”.
An invitation has also gone China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang, sources said.
Besides Pakistan and China, the eight-member SCO grouping includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The invitation was reportedly delivered by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, days after Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called for talks with India over all outstanding issues, saying “we have learnt our lesson”.
In an interview with Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV last week, Mr Sharif had said, “We have had three wars with India, and they have only brought more misery, poverty, and unemployment to the people… We have learnt our lesson, and we want to live in peace with India, provided we are able to resolve our genuine problems”.
He added: “My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Modi is that let’s sit down on the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning points like Kashmir.”
If Pakistan accepts, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would be its first foreign minister to visit India after a gap of nearly 12 years.
In November 2021, New Delhi invited Pakistan for a meeting of National Security Advisors on Afghanistan in Delhi. Islamabad turned down the invite, accusing India of playing a negative role in Afghanistan. “I will not go. I am not going. A spoiler can’t become a peacemaker,” Pakistan’s then National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf had said.
India-Pakistan ties have been strained since the terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, added to the strain.
In 2019, days after over 40 security personnel were killed in a terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, India launched air strikes targeting terror training camps in Pakistan’s Balakot. This was followed by an aerial dogfight between the two nations.
India insists that talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand and Pakistan needs to dismantle all the terror camps operating from its soil.
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