Pakistan did not engage with India at SCO, says Bilawal

Karachi mayorship
Ijaz Kakakhel

Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday said his office had taken a principled stance not to seek bilateral connect with his Indian counterpart at the SCO meeting due to the latter’s actions in Kashmir in 2019.

Briefing the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on the SCO meeting he attended in India earlier this year, he said it was a difficult decision to take after India’s actions in Kashmir in 2019, adding that he had, at first, no interest in participating in the SCO meeting for emotional reasons. After extensive discussions and consultations with several former foreign secretaries of Pakistan, a consensus was reached to attend the summit. The rationale behind this decision was that as a multilateral forum, the SCO should not be left unattended. We chose to present our case through this platform and prevent India from taking advantage of an open field.

The meeting of the senate standing committee on Foreign Affairs was held today at Parliament House with Senator Farooq Hamid Naek in Chair. Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave a detailed briefing to the committee on Pakistan’s diplomatic, economic, peace and security, and strategic objectives achieved through participation in the recent SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting held in India.

The Foreign Minister emphasized that India, as the host country, aimed to exploit the opportunity to propagate its version of terrorism against Pakistan. By being present at the forum, he had the opportunity to counter India’s narrative and remind the participants and the world of Pakistan’s status as the most affected country by terrorism. He further expressed that our commitment to resolving the issue of terrorism stems from our own interests, not merely in response to India’s demands. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari described his visit to India for the SCO summit as positive and productive. The Foreign Minister highlighted the importance of engaging in constructive dialogue, even with countries that have divergent views, in order to foster understanding and explore avenues of cooperation. He expressed his satisfaction with the outcomes of the summit and the opportunity it provided for meaningful exchanges with fellow SCO member states except India with which Pakistan decided not to seek any bilateral exchanges during the summit.

Briefing the committee about India holding a G-20 tourism working group meeting, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari strongly condemned the Indian decision to hold a G-20 tourism working group meeting in the illegally occupied region of Jammu and Kashmir. He deemed this action as condemnable, offensive, and obnoxious. According to him, conducting such a meeting in a territory internationally recognized as disputed exposes India’s arrogance to the world. The Foreign Minister highlighted that India’s objective of achieving 100% attendance for the meeting was not realized, as several countries did not participate, while others downgraded their level of representation.