Edited By: Oindrila Mukherjee
Last Updated: March 16, 2023, 21:15 IST
The invite to Pakistan defence minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif for the meeting on April 28 was sent as India is the current chair of the eight-nation SCO. (Image: AFP/File)
Sources said Pakistan, which is reeling from an economic crisis, desperately needs trade to resume with India as soon as possible while the Shehbaz Sharif-led government wanted friendly relations with New Delhi
India has invited Pakistan’s defence minister for the SCO meeting to be held in New Delhi in April. Khawaja Muhammad Asif is likely to visit New Delhi with a “message of peace” as Islamabad wants a “fresh start” in a historically troubled relationship, sources said.
The invite to Asif for the meeting on April 28 was sent as India is the current chair of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). This comes weeks after a similar communication was sent to Islamabad inviting Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for a conclave of the grouping that is scheduled to be held in May.
The Pakistani government has not yet decided whether Asif will attend meetings in India. The country’s foreign office said that decision will be made at an appropriate time.
According to highly placed sources, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is willing to resume trade and ties with India while Asif will visit India with a “message of peace”. Pakistan, which is reeling from an economic crisis, desperately needs trade to resume with India as soon as possible. The PDM government wanted friendly relations with New Delhi, a source said.
Islamabad is now looking at the SCO meet as an opportunity to resume ties with New Delhi as both the defence and foreign ministers are slated to visit India. The list of visiting delegates for both visits is not yet final.
If Asif visits India for the SCO meet, it will be the first such from Islamabad to India since 2011. The then Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar had visited India that year. She is currently serving as the minister of state for foreign affairs.
Invite sent as part of laid down norms: India
According to sources familiar with the development, the invite was sent as part of laid down norms. Asif was sent an invitation through the Indian high commission in Islamabad for the defence ministerial meeting.
India is also set to send separate invites to Sharif, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin for the annual SCO summit later this year. The SCO member countries are India, Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.
While the SCO defence ministers’ meeting is scheduled to be held in Delhi, the foreign ministerial conclave is set to take place in Goa in early May. India has already invited Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang for the meeting.
The defence ministers’ meeting is set to delve into issues relating to regional security, including the threat of terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan. The meeting will be chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh.
(With PTI inputs)
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