India invites Pakistan FM Bhutto to SCO Summit despite his controversial remarks against PM Modi. What’s next?

Image Source : AP Pakistan’s foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

SCO meeting 2023: India has formally invited its neighbouring country, Pakistan’s foreign minister and its Chief Justice to the forthcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting despite a major controversy that erupted following his contentious remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Notably, SCO is an intergovernmental organisation which comprises eight Member States– China, India, Russia, and Pakistan– and four Asian nations– Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Usually, the head of the state joins this crucial meeting, irrespective of their political as well as policy differences.

Earlier last year, India received the SCO rotating presidency in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Accordingly, New Delhi will hold the presidency of the grouping for a year until September 2023. However, this will be the most convoluted deal for Pakistan whether to send its top heads or skip the crucial meeting by just sending their representatives.

Heated arguments between India and Pakistan

This year, India’s invitation to Islamabad is considered crucial amid the fact that both nations had exchanged a series of heated arguments at the United Nations.

Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the UN meeting in December last year, Pakistan FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari ignited a major stir by calling the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “Butcher of Gujarat”. Bhutto alleged Modi for the communal violence that erupted in Gujarat in 2002.

Bhutto’s contradictory claim came last month even though India’s Supreme Court had acquitted Mr Modi of all the charges including other politicians. The critical remarks of Bhutto had sparked a major controversy around the globe, where some former Pakistani diplomats and officials marked his statement a “new low”. In India, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party had staged a nationwide protest against Bhutto’s contentious remarks against the Prime Minister.

India’s staunch reply to Islamabad

Subsequently, on another occasion, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, during a debate at the UN forum gave a staunch reply to his Pakistani counterpart and emphasised how his country has become an “epicentre for terrorism” that has been affecting India and the United States. He recalled Pakistan’s role in executing two of the deadliest terrorist episodes– 26/11 Mumbai attack wherein more than 175 people were killed in 2008, and the September 11 attacks, commonly known as 9/11, where more than 3,000 people were killed following an attack on the Word Trade Centre (WTO).

Why India has invited Pakistan despite its FM’s controversial remarks?

It is worth mentioning the host county has to invite all the member nations irrespective of their tensions with other members. On Thursday, Pakistan confirmed India’s invitation for the foreign minister but did not confirm its plans.

“Both India and Pakistan are members of the SCO. India is hosting the conference this year and as the chairman, it has sent an invitation to us. The invitation is being reviewed. A decision regarding participation in the meeting will be taken after deliberation,” Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a weekly briefing on Thursday.

Even though both countries had a heated argument at the international forum, Pakistan has to send either its head of state or the representatives to the upcoming SCO summit which is due to be held between May 4 and 5 in Goa.

Also Read: India invites Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto for SCO meetings

Pakistan will not take the risk of ranting about its biggest lender amid crisis

On the other hand, China, which is also a member of the intergovernmental organisation and a key lender to Pakistan, will definitely force the top diplomat of Islamabad to join the meeting. Other factors include the tumultuous economic situation in Pakistan, which will not let the country abide by its so-called “national interests”.

Also Read: ‘Pakistan PM Sharif travelling to countries with a begging bowl but none giving him a penny’: Imran Khan

It will also endeavour its best to negotiate with Russia on the sidelines of the meeting. It is highly possible that Shehbaz Sharif-led government will try to convince Moscow to offer them oil at a discounted rate amid the energy crisis in the debt-ridden nation.

Pakistan PM wants “friendly ties” with New Delhi

Earlier last week, Prime Minister Sharif had also acknowledged that the three wars with India were its biggest blunders and pleaded to develop friendly ties with its neighbouring nation at a time it has been facing the worst-ever economic crisis. In an interview with Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV, Sharif said that Pakistan has learned its lesson after three wars with India and stressed that now it wants peace with its neighbour.

“My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Modi is that let’s sit down at the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning points like Kashmir. It is up to us to live peacefully and make progress or quarrel with each other and waste time and resources,” Sharif said.

Although the Prime Minister’s office had later taken a u-turn from Sharf’s statement, it is highly possible that the Prime Minister will force Bhutto to initiate a friendly conversation with New Delhi. Interestingly, if Pakistan’s FM comes to India, it will be the first time its foreign minister will visit India in almost 12 years.

Also Read: “We always wanted normal relations but…”: India’s staunch reply to Pakistan PM Sharif

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