Pakistan Prime Minister to be invited for SCO summit

Bilawal and Qin Gang invited for Ministers’ meeting; events assume significance as they will bring Pakistani leadership to India after a decade and Chinese and Russian leadership in the same year

India has invited Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Ministers meeting likely to be held in Goa in early May, officials confirmed on Wednesday.

Invitations for the SCO summit, expected to be held in June, will also go out to Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif shortly.

The dates and venues for both meetings were discussed during the third meeting of the SCO coordinators in Varanasi on January 17, and previous meetings held in Delhi, led by Indian SCO national coordinator Yojna Patel. Pakistan’s SCO national coordinator took part in the Varanasi meeting virtually.

While invitations for the SCO summit are considered routine as India is chairing the SCO grouping this year, the events gain significance as they will bring the Pakistani leadership to India after a decade.

They will also bring the Chinese and Russian leadership to India in the same year, as they are also invited for the G-20 events.

India has already invited all G-20 Foreign Ministers to the meeting on March 1 and 2, following which they have been invited to attend the annual MEA Raisina Dialogue conference.

China’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang is due to visit Delhi for both the G-20 and, subsequently, the SCO meeting, as is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was last here in March 2021.

India and China have had very few bilateral meetings since the 2020 stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) began.

All eyes will also be on the acceptance of Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend either the SCO summit expected in June, or the G-20 summit slated for September, amidst the war in Ukraine.

Pak. word awaited

Officials said that the SCO Ministers meet invitation was delivered to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, but it is still unclear whether it would be accepted.

Last month, India had protested Mr. Bhutto’s derogatory comments about Mr. Modi, when he called the Prime Minister the “butcher of Gujarat”, after he and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar traded charges on terrorism on the sidelines of UN events in New York.