Pakistan mulls SCO participation in India.

Pakistan has begun in-house consultations to decide whether to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meetings of the defence and foreign ministers in India.


New Delhi has already extended invitations to Defense Minister Khawaja Asif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. They have scheduled the Defence Ministers’ meeting in New Delhi for April and the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Goa for May.

India being the current president of eight-nation SCO is holding a series of events.

Barring one event where Pakistan was denied entry over map controversy, Islamabad has attended all other events, including chief justices’ conference and meeting of energy ministers via video-link.

However, a three-member Pakistan military delegation headed by a brigadier attended the meeting of an expert working group under the Council of Defence Ministers in-person in New Delhi on Thursday.

The presence of Pakistani delegation in New Delhi has raised the possibility of defence and foreign ministers traveling to the neighbouring country.

Sources are currently carrying out in-house consultations, even though the Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson maintains that the final decision will be made closer to the events.

There is currently a division among the authorities regarding attendance at the high-profile meetings. One viewpoint is that due to the present state of relations, Pakistan may only send junior officials to the SCO meetings if necessary.

But the others do not agree with this. They believe that Pakistan must not leave such key regional forums unattended, and since SCO comprises powerful countries, including Russia and China, Pakistan must use this opportunity to advance its interests.

China interest:

Sources said that a lot will depend on China. If China, being the founding member of SCO that played a key role in making Pakistan its full-time member, asks Islamabad to attend the meetings it would be difficult for the government to ignore the advice.

The SCO accepted Pakistan and India as full members upon their commitment to not bring up their bilateral issues that would undermine the regional focus.

Given this in mind it would be extremely difficult for Pakistan to stay away from the SCO gatherings altogether.

Sources said that Foreign Minister Bilawal was keen to go to India for the SCO meeting.

If Pakistan attends the defence and foreign ministers’ meetings. it is possible that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif may also go to India in July for the SCO summit.

The relationship between Pakistan and India remains at a standstill despite efforts in recent times to normalise ties. If Pakistan sends a high-powered delegation to India for SCO, it may break the ice though it may not bring any dramatic change in the bilateral ties.

According to sources, the final decision regarding Pakistan’s participation in the SCO ministerial meetings and summit will be after proper evaluation.

It would also depend on the political situation in Pakistan, they added.

Published on Logical Baat, March 27, 2023.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *