Bilawal to attend SCO meet in Goa, India plays it down

Wednesday 26th April 2023 06:23 EDT

Pakistan's foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will attend SCO foreign ministers meet which India is hosting in Goa on May 5.The Indian administration didn't explicitly rule out a meeting between S Jaishankar and Bilawal, but it didn't seem optimistic that the visit would result in any meaningful cooperation between the two nations.

In fact, the government tried to play down Pakistan’s announcement of Bilawal’s visit, saying it would not be appropriate to focus on the participation of one country alone in a multilateral event.

Given its links to China and recent pledges of friendship to Russia, Pakistan's membership in the Eurasian bloc is a top foreign policy aim. Both the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Qin Gang, will be present in Goa.

India awaits confirmation from Pak defence minister for another SCO meet. The last time there was a ministerial visit by either side was in 2015 when then foreign minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Islamabad for the multilateral conference. Pakistan PM’s foreign policy adviser and de facto minister Sartaj Aziz also visited India in 2016, again for the same conference India held in Amritsar.

Swaraj’s visit saw an abortive attempt by both sides to resume the dialogue process under the new name of comprehensive bilateral dialogue. The terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase weeks after the announcement put paid to that initiative.

Although important, the visit by Bilawal does not raise expectations for a thawing of relations as it occurs at a time when high commissioners are not present and both embassies are operating with only half the authorised number of employees.

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