ISLAMABAD: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Secretary General Ambassador Zhang Ming is visiting Pakistan today (Friday) for three days and will invite Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to participate in the SCO annual summit to be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on September 15-16.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also attend the summit, which will provide an opportunity to the prime ministers of Pakistan and India to come face-to-face. It is for the first time in six years that the two prime ministers will be present under one roof and avail an opportunity to see each other.
Highly-placed diplomatic sources told The News here on Thursday that a chance meeting between Shehbaz and Modi couldn’t be ruled out since both would be in the same compound for two days. “No structured meeting of the two has been tied up since India hasn’t requested the same yet. In case such request is made, Pakistan’s response will be positive,” the sources said, adding that Iran would join the eight-member amalgamation as its new member in the upcoming summit.
The SCO secretary general will head a delegation of top officials from the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing in the visit to Pakistan. Commenting on the visit, the Foreign Office said: “The visit of the SCO secretary general will provide an opportunity for Pakistan to engage with the SCO Secretariat while highlighting its perspective and priorities for making SCO mechanisms more effective in advancing shared regional security and economic goals.”
Ming will hold meetings with the foreign minister and ministers of Commerce, Climate Change, Information Technology and Maritime Affairs. He will also speak at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) soon after his arrival.
The SCO provides an important platform for Pakistan to strengthen its deep-rooted and historic ties with the member states and promote socio-economic cooperation for mutual benefit across diverse areas. The SCO is a Eurasian political and economic alliance. In terms of geographic scope and population, it is the world’s largest regional organisation, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population and more than 30% of global GDP. The SCO has three observer states - Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia - along with six dialogue partners namely Turkiye, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Pakistan joined it in June 2017 when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister.
China, Pakistan, Russia, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are full members of the group. The group new chair has already outlined its priorities and tasks. These include efforts to raise the potential and authority of the organization, ensure peace and stability in the region, reduce poverty and ensure food security.
Putting together a plan for the development of intra-regional trade, which will include measures to eliminate trade barriers, align technical regulations and digitalise customs procedures, will also be on the table for discussions.
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