Bilawal Bhutto becomes first Pak foreign minister to visit India in 12 years

“I am very happy to reach Goa to lead the Pakistani delegation to the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting”.


Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari arrived in Goa today to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), becoming the first senior leader from the neighboring country to visit India in nearly 12 years.

His visit to India to attend a meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) comes amid ongoing strain in relations between the two countries over a number of issues, including Islamabad’s use of cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Foreign Minister of Pakistan was received at the airport in Goa by JP Singh, Joint Secretary, Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Division in the Ministry of External Affairs.

In 2011, Pakistan’s then Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited India and held talks with her then counterpart SM Krishna.

Bhutto-Zardari told reporters, “I am very happy to reach Goa to lead the Pakistani delegation to the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting. I hope that the SCO CFM meeting will be successful.”

Although there was media talk about Bhutto-Zardari’s two-day visit to Goa, both the Indian and Pakistani sides appeared to be distancing themselves from each other.

There are no plans for a bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Bhutto-Zardari as there has been no request from Pakistan, people familiar with official engagements on the sidelines of the SCO summit said.

In a tweet with the caption ‘Salaam, Goa from India’, Bhutto-Zardari said: “Assalamualaikum, we have reached Goa for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting.” “I will first have a meeting with the Russian foreign minister. Then with the foreign minister of Uzbekistan. I will attend a dinner for all foreign ministers,” he said in a short video.

Before leaving for Goa, the Pakistani Foreign Minister said, “My decision to attend this meeting reflects Pakistan’s strong commitment to the Charter of the SCO.” “During my visit, which is particularly focused on the SCO, I look forward to constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries,” he said.

The Pakistan Foreign Minister’s visit to India is the first such visit from Islamabad since 2011 as Khar visited New Delhi that year. He is currently serving as the Minister of State for External Affairs.

In May 2014, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In December 2015, former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Pakistan, and Modi made a brief visit to that country a few days later.

An invitation to Pakistan’s foreign minister to attend the SCO meeting was sent in January, days after which Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered to hold bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.

In an interview with the United Arab Emirates-based Al Arabiya news channel, Sharif had said that Pakistan had learned its lesson after three wars with India and now wanted to live in peace with India if “we can solve our real problems”. able to solve.”

However, Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Office later stated that talks are not possible without India revoking its 2019 actions on Kashmir.

India has been maintaining that it desires normal neighborly relations with Pakistan, while insisting that the onus lies on Islamabad to create an environment free of terror and hostility for such engagement.

In February 2019, relations between India and Pakistan were severely strained after Indian warplanes bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

Relations deteriorated further in August 2019 after India announced the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special powers and bifurcation of the state into two union territories.

In a related development, Pakistan’s PM Sharif said his country’s decision to attend the SCO External Affairs meeting in India reflects its “commitment” to the SCO charter and multilateralism as he asserted that his country is committed to its shared cause of peace. Committed to playing our part in furthering the values. and stability in the region.

He further said, “We are committed to playing our part to advance our shared values ​​of peace and stability in the region. We are all for a win-win understanding based on connectivity, trade and mutually beneficial cooperation.” “

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)