ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani delegation comprised of officers from three armed forces will attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) working group meeting in New Delhi, the Foreign Office confirmed on Friday, raising the prospect of the country’s defense minister visiting India next month.
As the current President of the SCO, India is hosting a series of meetings this year. It has invited Pakistan’s defense and foreign ministers to the upcoming SCO meetings in April and May.
Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokeswoman for the FO, told reporters in Islamabad that no decision had yet been made regarding the invitations, but she did confirm that a delegation from Pakistan’s Joint Staff Headquarters had visited and attended a meeting of the expert working group under the SCO’s Council of Ministers of Defense.
”Pakistan is a participant in the SCO and will stay involved. We have voiced our concerns to the SCO regarding that unfortunate development from last week, and the SCO has taken note of them on behalf of the entire organization “She made this statement in response to India’s decision to revoke Pakistan’s invitation to a meeting of military experts on pandemics and healthcare.
“I can’t foresee how things will pan out with regard to the upcoming meetings, but I can tell you that yesterday a team from Joint Staff Headquarters in Pakistan attended the 16th meeting of the expert working group under the Council of the Ministers of Defense of SCO member nations. Attending in person was a working-level delegation, “Added she.
Pakistan attended its first SCO summit in person at this one. It previously used a video link to attend both the meeting of the energy ministers and the chief justices.
Islamabad is seriously contemplating accepting the invitation, even though a final decision regarding Pakistan’s participation in the SCO defense and foreign ministers’ meetings has not yet been made.
One opinion within the foreign office is that Pakistan shouldn’t withdraw from such an important forum, giving India a chance to gain ground since the SCO is a regional forum that also includes China and Russia as members.
In June, a summit meeting is also expected to be held in India, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is likely to be invited. According to reports, several friendly nations are redoubling their efforts to facilitate dialogue between Pakistan and India. The political unrest in Pakistan, though, is preventing things from progressing.