India invites Asif for multi-lateral SCO summit

ISLAMABAD: India has invited Pakistan to attend the defense ministers’ meeting, which will be held next month in April.

As the chair of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), India has invited all members.

“As SCO chair, we’ve sent invitations to all SCO members for intergovernmental events. I can’t say(whether Pakistan will attend the meeting),” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters when asked about India’s invitation to Pakistan’s defence minister for the SCO meet.

However, there has been no response from Pakistan regarding Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif attending this meeting taking place in India.

If Pakistan decides to send its minister to India, it will be the first high-level visit of any Pakistani minister after 2011, when foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khan visited India.

Then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited India in May 2014 to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a thumping victory in the general elections.

Indian external affairs minister at that time, Sushma Swaraj, visited Pakistan in December 2015 and later, Narendra Modi also visited Pakistan.

Sharat Sabharwal, a former diplomat who had served as Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, told Anadolu Agency that this invitation is not unusual.

“As chair of the SCO, all members have to be sent invitations for the meeting. Pakistan is a member. That’s normal and nothing surprising at all.

Whether they attend it or not, that is altogether a different issue,” said Sabharwal.

He further said that the SCO chief justice meeting hosted by India was not attended by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was attended by another justice, he added.

India invited Pakistan for the SCO Chief Justice meeting held in New Delhi from March 10-12.

The SCO is made up of eight member countries, which include India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The members discuss matters of regional concern, security, growth, and multilateral relations. The organization focuses on promoting economic, political, and military cooperation among its members.

The relations between the two arch-rival countries plummeted to a new low after August 2019, when India scrapped the longstanding special status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in Islamabad downgrading its diplomatic ties with New Delhi.


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