In a major diplomatic breakthrough in over a decade, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will undertake a visit to India to lead Pakistan’s delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) being held on May 4-5, 2023 in Goa.
This was announced by Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch during her weekly media briefing on Thursday, saying the foreign minister will be leading the Pakistan delegation to the SCO’s CFM.
She said the foreign minister was attending the SCO’s CFM meeting at the invitation of the current Chair of SCO’s CFM, Dr S Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs of India.
“Our participation in the meeting reflects Pakistan’s commitment to the SCO Charter and processes and the importance that Pakistan accords to the region in its foreign policy priorities,” she said, adding Foreign Minister Bilawal had also attended the last meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in July last year in Tashkent.
Asked whether the foreign minister will also be holding a meeting with his Indian counterpart during the visit, she neither confirmed nor denied, saying in the coming days as decisions are taken, the Foreign Office will be making further announcements.
“I’ve always said that when decisions are taken, we will make formal announcements. Now that this decision has been taken we will be making preparations for the visit,” she said.
However, she underlined that the upcoming visit of the foreign minister was not a bilateral visit but a visit in the SCO context.
Earlier, Hina Rabbani Khar, the then foreign minister had visited India in July 2011.
The spokesperson said Pakistan continued to participate in the SCO meetings in keeping with our long-standing commitment to the SCO. Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman represented Pakistan at the 4th SCO Meeting of Heads of Ministries on Environmental Protection.
The meeting was held in online format in New Delhi on 18th April 2023. On Wednesday, she added that Director of the National Disaster Management Authority virtually attended the SCO Expert Meeting of Heads of Agencies for Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations while on Thursday Muhammad Idrees Mahsud, Member Disaster Risk Reduction, virtually participated in the SCO Meeting of Heads of Agencies for Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations. To a question about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, she said CPEC was the “crown jewel” of Pakistan-China economic collaboration, adding it was an important project to which both countries are fully committed.
“We believe that CPEC has provided enormous benefits to the people of Pakistan,” she said, adding the energy projects that had come online as a result of Chinese investments under the CPEC framework demonstrate their importance for Pakistan’s economy and for Pakistan’s development.
“Similarly, the people of Pakistan are already benefiting from the road infrastructure and the motorway projects developed under the CPEC, and anyone who travels on these roads can appreciate the economic significance of these infrastructure projects,” she added.
She said the development of Gwadar Port was also a major achievement of the CPEC. “We believe that all these projects are contributing and have the potential to further contribute to Pakistan’s development and prosperity,” she added.
The spokesperson also stated that Pakistan’s Head of Mission in Afghanistan Ambassador Ubaid Nizamani has returned to Kabul and resumed his responsibilities. She said that this was made possible after close consultation with the Afghan interim government.
In his telephone conversation with Acting Afghan Minister for Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi on April 15, Foreign Minister Bilawal also reiterated the necessity and responsibility of the Afghan interim government towards the safety and security of our diplomatic missions and personnel in Afghanistan.
She said Pakistan and Afghanistan were neighbours and it was important for both countries to have good cordial relations and engage in a continuous robust dialogue on all issues.
“Pakistan remains committed to Afghanistan that is peaceful and that is stable; and we will continue to engage with Afghan authorities to discuss with them all issues that arise. We believe that the return of our Head of Mission to Kabul will contribute to our efforts to further strengthen dialogue with the Afghan interim authorities,” she added.
About the situation in Sudan, she said Pakistan continued to follow the developments in Sudan and was closely monitoring the safety and security of the Pakistani community in the country.
She said Pakistan’s Embassy in Sudan remained in close contact with the community and would continue to facilitate them there. She said the total number of Pakistanis in Sudan was around 1,500 and the Embassy had advised them to stay indoors for their own safety in view of the developments that were taking place in the country right now.
On the prevailing situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, she lamented that even during the holy month of Ramazan, the Indian occupation authorities had continued to impose curbs and restrictions on the freedom of religion.
She said the occupation authorities, last week, stopped Kashmiris from offering Friday prayer at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid. She urged the Indian authorities to bring an end to the restrictions imposed on Kashmiris that prevent them from freely practicing their religion.
Baloch said Pakistan will continue to raise its voice against these grave and systematic human rights violations in the IIOJK and it will also continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions.