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India invites Foreign Minister and Chief Justice for SCO meetings

ISLAMABAD: India has asked Pakistan’s Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to attend sessions of a crucial regional forum in which Russia and China will also be participating.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asian states, is now led by India. As president of the SCO, New Delhi will host a number of events, including a conference of member states’ chief justices, a meeting of foreign ministers, and a summit in 2023.

The SCO chief justices will convene in March, while the foreign ministers will gather in May.

Official sources stated on Monday that India has shared invites for Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari with Pakistan.

It is unclear whether the chief justice and foreign minister will attend both events or delegate someone to represent Pakistan. According to sources, Pakistan has yet to respond to India’s invitation.

Given the importance of the SCO due to the involvement of China and Russia, Pakistan is unlikely to remain away from the festivities.

Pakistan and India were both admitted as full members of the important organization a few years ago after promising not to impede the SCO’s functioning due to bilateral issues.

The SCO foreign ministers will convene in Goa, a popular tourist destination in South India.

If the chief justice and foreign minister travel to India for both events, it will be considered as important, as it will be Pakistan’s first high-profile visit to India in many years.

The expected visit will not result in any meaningful conclusion for bilateral ties between the arch adversaries, but it will serve as an icebreaker.
India will also host the SCO summit meeting in August or September, and Pakistan is almost certain to be invited. If elections are held on time in October, Pakistan will have a caretaker prime minister for the SCO conference. As a result, even if the caretaker prime minister visits India, he may not be authorized to discuss bilateral problems with Indian leaders.

Nonetheless, if the trips take place, they may pave the way for some type of engagement between the two countries. Following the SCO summit, India will host the One Day International Cricket World Cup in October-November. The successful travels of Pakistani high-ranking officials to the SCO summit will allow Islamabad to send men in green to the neighboring country for the world cup.

For many years, relations between Pakistan and India have been strained. When the two countries surprisingly agreed to prolong the ceasefire along the Line of Control in February 2021, there was some hope for thawing (LoC).
According to recent reports, Pakistan and India were exploring the potential of a summit meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan in early 2021.

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