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SCO meet: Bilawal Bhutto against ‘weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring’

FM’s statement comes after Indian minister raises issue of terrorism at SCO Council of Foreign Ministers summit in Goa

By Azaz Syed
May 05, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari stands with his counterpart Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers in Indias Goa city on May 5, 2023. — Twitter/@ForeignOfficePk
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari stands with his counterpart Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers in India's Goa city on May 5, 2023. — Twitter/@ForeignOfficePk

GOA: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari Friday urged not getting caught up in “weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring” after India raised the issue of cross-border terrorism at the meeting.

The minister’s comments came while addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) summit in Goa, India.

Bilawal is currently on his first-ever visit to the neighbouring country after assuming office last year.

While urging the member nations for collective action towards the issue, the foreign minister said: “The collective security of our peoples is our joint responsibility.”

The foreign minister's comments came in response to his Indian counterpart Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s statement on terrorism.

Bilawal said Pakistan is firmly committed to be part of regional and global efforts for eradicating this menace.

“This requires not only a comprehensive approach but also a collective approach. It demands we address the root causes as well as the threats posed by specific groups. It requires that we let this challenge unite us to fight it rather than divide us to become its victim. Our success requires us to isolate this issue from geo-political partisanship,” he said.

The Pakistani foreign minister insisted on putting an end to the chapter of terrorism “once and for all” through “practical and pragmatic solutions”.

“We must stop conflating non-state actors with state actors. Condemn all forms of terrorism including state-sponsored terrorism,” he asserted.

He urged for the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure to be further strengthened to effectively address the growing threats to peace and security in the organisation’s space citing how many SCO members confront the menace of terrorism, often from the same terrorist groups.

CPEC

Shedding light on the significance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the region, he said that the project can be a force multiplier for regional connectivity.

“For too long, we have lamented the lack of connectivity between our economies — an impediment to regional trade and investment. CPEC does not only connect Pakistan to its neighbour China, but offers all countries invested in the commonality of the future of this region to take the journey further and connect the dots towards full regional economic integration," he said.

'Peaceful and stable Afghanistan'

He also highlighted the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan stating that is not only crucial for regional integration and economic cooperation, but also for global peace and stability.

He also highlighted the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan stating that is not only crucial to regional integration and economic cooperation, but also to global peace and stability.

“The international community should also help build their counter-terrorism capacity for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world at large. It is alarming that terrorist groups within Afghanistan are cooperating amongst themselves more than we are as the international community,” he said.

Bilawal maintained that Pakistan will be the first but not the last to suffer the consequences if Afghanistan remains unstable and called on the interim Afghan authorities to “uphold their commitments on not allowing the use of Afghan soil for terrorism.”

China's commendable role

Mentioning China’s “commendable” role in bridging differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran — two countries that are also associated with the SCO, the minister said: “When great powers play role of peace maker, we can unlock potential of peace while paving way for greater cooperation, regional integration and economic opportunities for our peoples.”

In March, China's President Xi Jinping helped broker a surprise deal between regional rivals Tehran and Riyadh to end a seven-year rift and restore diplomatic ties — a display of China's growing influence in the region.

'Pakistan’s strong commitment to SCO'

The foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s strong commitment to SCO.

"There couldn’t be a more powerful indication of the importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO than my presence here in Goa for this CFM,” he said in his address.

He underscored the importance that Pakistan accords to the principles of mutual trust and shared development as enshrined in the “Shanghai Spirit”.

Pakistan, Bilawal said, strongly believes in and fully adheres to principles of mutual trust and shared development enshrined in the original “Shanghai Spirit”.

Commenting on the organisation's role in enhancing regional connectivity, the top Pakistani diplomat said: "SCO could be a key platform for taking the vision of Eurasian connectivity to the next level."

He also stressed the need for collective action to fight the climate crisis. “The climate crisis poses an existential threat to humanity.”

Further sharing his vision for poverty alleviation in the region, Bilawal highlighted that there is a very strong and compelling case for closer cooperation for poverty alleviation under SCO.

“The establishment of the Special Working Group on Poverty Alleviation proposed by Pakistan will be a step in that direction,” he said.

Emphasising on the SCO's role as an intergovernmental organisation, he spoke about how the entity has emerged as a platform for promoting mutual understanding, security and development through constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Pakistan's case on climate change

Given Pakistan’s fight with climate change as one of the worst-affected nations in the world, the minister informed fellow participants of the summit about the country’s role in pushing for global discourse on climate change.

"Pakistan has emerged as an important voice in the global discourse on climate change in the aftermath of that natural calamity,” Bilawal said.

In his address, the minister reiterated Pakistan's commitment to multilateralism for maintaining international peace and harmony. “Pakistan remains committed to multilateralism and continues to play a leading role at all international forums.”

'Opportune time for reform and modernisation of SCO'

During the moot, Dr Jaishankar said: “As SCO chair we've initiated an unprecedented engagement with SCO observers and dialogue partners by inviting them to participate in more than 14 social-cultural events.”

Talking to the participants, he said that the SCO platform was in its third decade of existence. “This is an opportune time for reform and modernisation of the SCO to keep it relevant in a rapidly reforming world,” he said, adding that he was pleased to note that “discussions for reform and modernisation have already commenced.”

He pledged India’s support for the decision.

Furthermore, the host reiterated his country’s “long-standing” demand that English be made the third official language of the moot. At the moment Russian and Mandarin are the languages used at the form officially.

Dr Jaishankar contended that using English would enable a deeper engagement from English-speaking states and take the SCO to reach a larger international platform.

He also shared that progress had been made of including Iran and Belarus as full members of the SCO.

During his speech, the host also discussed the rise of terrorism in the world.

“While the world faced COVID-19 and its consequences, the menace of terrorism continues unabated,” he said, adding that taking eyes of this menace is detrimental to the security interests of all.

Dr Jaishankar added that there was “no justification for terrorism” and that it must be stopped in “all its forms and manifestations” including cross-border terrorism.

“Channels of financing terror must be seized and blocked without distinction,” he stressed, adding that combatting terrorism was one of the original mandates of the SCO.

'No chance to complain'

Earlier today, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zehra Baloch said India has given Pakistan no reason to complain regarding Bilawal's visit to attend the SCO summit in Goa.

“They haven’t given us a chance to complain. All is well so far,” she said when speaking to Geo News in an exclusive interview.

When asked if the foreign minister's handshake with his counterpart Dr Jaishankar was reflective of past bitterness, Baloch said: “You are giving it a lot of importance. It was a routine formality.”

Responding to a question regarding Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to India in July to attend the SCO summit, the FO spokesperson said it is too early to say anything at the moment.

Bilawal is leading the country's delegation at the SCO's Council of Foreign Ministers ongoing meeting in Goa.

A day earlier, he arrived in the Indian city on his first-ever visit to India, hoping for a "successful" meeting of the SCO foreign ministers.

Following his arrival, Bilawal became the first Pakistani foreign minister who visited the neighbouring country after a gap of nearly 12 years.

Speaking to the media after landing in Goa, the foreign minister said, "I am happy that I have reached here in Goa to attend the SCO meeting. I hope that the SCO CFM will be a success."

The spokesperson further told Geo News that a host welcomed their guest like they did for other foreign ministers.

FM Bilawal's engagements in Goa

During the visit, Bilawal — alongside his delegation — is set to engage with several of his counterparts from different nations.

In a video message that he posted on Twitter, the foreign minister said he is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Then, he will meet Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Bakhtiyor Saidov.

Following the meetings, Bilawal is set to attend a dinner in which foreign ministers from all the nations will be present. After that, he is set to engage with media personnel for interviews.