Tuesday May 28, 2024

SCO meeting in Goa: Bilawal to consult coalition partners to form strategy before visit to India

By Farooq Aqdas
April 27, 2023

ISLAMABAD: While Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is busy making arrangements for the participation of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto in the meeting of foreign ministers of the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held in Goa, India, in the first week of the coming month, reports of developments in India in this regard have become a matter of concern.

Two days ago, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar without naming Pakistan said that it was very difficult to talk to a neighbouring country involved in terrorism. This he said in a press conference during his visit to Panama while responding to a question in the context of India-Pakistan relations.

He said that India had always stated that they (the neighbouring country) have to fulfil their commitment to stop cross-border terrorism and not to encourage and sponsor it. He added that India hoped that one day such a stage would be reached.

In response to a question about his meeting with Bilawal Bhutto on the occasion of the SCO meeting, he did not give a clear answer and said it was difficult to talk with a neighbouring country that committed terrorist acts against India.

Meanwhile, some organisations in India have announced protest demonstrations against the visit of the Pakistani foreign minister to India. On Wednesday, in the city of Indore in Indian state Madhya Pradesh, posters and banners with a photo of Bilawal were put up in streets and markets on which ‘No Entry’ was written.

The Indore Congress spokesperson said the foreign minister of Pakistan should not be allowed to enter India because he belonged to the country that had promoted extremism in their country. He appealed to the common people to participate in the protest on the arrival of the Pakistani foreign minister and said that the families of those killed in the terrorism in India would also participate in the protest. However, serious quarters in India, including intellectuals, analysts and observers who want peaceful relations between the two countries, are not only looking forward to the arrival of the Pakistani foreign minister in India, but are also suggesting to the Indian government that Jaishankar should also meet the Pakistani counterpart and take advantage of the opportunity of his arrival to make bilateral relations positive.

It is pertinent to note that Bilawal will lead the Pakistani delegation in the SCO meeting to be held in Goa on May 4 and 5. He has said that he will consult coalition parties to formulate a strategy before attending this meeting.

The invitation to the meeting was delivered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Indian High Commission in Pakistan two months ago. According to sources, as Pakistan has officially informed the foreign minister of the host country, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, about its participation in the meeting, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has started preparations in this regard. During his two-day stay in India, Bilawal will hold meetings with the foreign ministers and high-level officials of member countries of the organisation such as China, Russia and four Central Asian states. There he can also meet his Indian counterpart Jaishankar, but this meeting will be informal rather than an official one.Bilawal has also expressed the desire for visiting and laying a wreath at the shrine of world-renowned Sufi Saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti during his maiden visit to India. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the Indian authorities about Bilawal’s desire, but no response has been received yet.

Earlier Bilawal’s mother Benazir Bhutto and father Asif Ali Zardari also visited Chishti’s shrine during their visit to India while they were in power. The Peoples Party sources also claim that when Asif Ali Zardari was in jail for a prolonged period, Benazir had specially prayed at the shrine of Chishti for his release. It is also worth mentioning here that Bilawal will be the first foreign minister of Pakistan to visit India after a long period of 12 years.

Central leaders of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Pakistan are criticising Bilawal for using traditional rhetoric even before he has left the country for the visit. Particularly, former minister Fawad Chaudhry has stated that Bilawal’s visit to India is a part of the global agenda and equivalent to stabbing Kashmiris in the back. These are the allegations that are always levelled whenever a government makes any effort to improve the relations between the two countries. Fawad Chaudhry will surely remember that it was during his party’s government that the Indian government passed a resolution on August 5, 2019 regarding Article 370 of the Constitution and abolished the special status of the Occupied Kashmir.