Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) foreign ministers’ meeting in India next month, says the Pakistani ministry.
The SCO is a regional political and security bloc whose members include Russia, China, India and Pakistan.
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The two-day gathering will begin on May 4 in the western coastal state of Goa, reports said.
Pakistan foreign office’s spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahrah Baloch said Bhutto Zardari will be attending the SCO meeting at the invitation of his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, according to a report by Pakistan’s Dawn website.
“Our participation in the meeting reflects Pakistan’s commitment to the SCO Charter and processes and the importance that Pakistan accords to the region in its foreign policy priorities,” Baloch said.
“Pakistan continues to participate in SCO meetings in keeping with our longstanding commitment to SCO.”
Bhutto Zardari’s India visit will be the first by a Pakistani foreign minister in nearly 12 years. In 2011, the then-top Pakistani diplomat, Hina Rabbani Khar, now Bhutto Zardari’s deputy in the foreign ministry, had visited India.
Relations between the two countries worsened since India’s Hindu nationalist government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped the partial autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority region, in 2019.
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is claimed in full by the two South Asian nuclear powers, but each governs only parts of it.
Since 1947 when India gained independence from the British and Pakistan was formed after a bloody partition, the neighbours have fought two of their three full-scale wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
An armed rebellion against New Delhi’s rule started in Kashmir in the late 1980s. According to rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of backing the Kashmiri rebels fighting either for an independent nation or its merger with Pakistan.
Islamabad denies the allegation, saying it only provides diplomatic support to the region’s struggle for the right to self-determination.