By: Shubham Ghosh
In a development which is unusual in south Asian politics, India has invited the defence minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Asif, to take part in a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held in New Delhi in April, a media report from Pakistan said on Wednesday (15).
India currently holds the presidency of the SCO, which comprises, besides the two south Asian nations, China, Russia and four central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as regular members.
Pakistan’s The Express Tribune newspaper cited diplomatic sources as saying that the Indian government shared the formal invitation to the Pakistani diplomat with the foreign office in Islamabad on Tuesday (14).
However, there was no immediate confirmation from New Delhi on the report from Pakistan.
India earlier invited chief justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, as well as shared an invitation for the meeting of foreign ministers of SCO, the report said.
The chief justice, however, skipped the meeting of the SCO chief justices and instead Justice Muneeb Akhtar attended the meeting through a video link recently, it was said.
While the bloc’s defence ministers will meet in the Indian capital next month, the foreign ministers will come together for a talk in Goa in May. India also invited Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang for the meeting in Goa.
The Pakistani government has said that it has not yet taken a decision on whether Zardari or Asif will attend the meetings in India.
If the Pakistani foreign minister attends the meeting in person, it will be the first such visit from Islamabad to India since 2011 when then foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited India. Khar is currently serving as the minister of state for foreign affairs.
(With PTI inputs)