SCO In Goa

On Thursday, the Foreign Office formally announced that FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Goa, India next month. While it was unclear initially whether Pakistan would attend the meeting because of the venue, this is a smart decision considering how vital a multilateral forum this is for Pakistan.
The conference is scheduled for May 4 and 5 and will be the first major trip by a top diplomat from Pakistan in over a decade. Earlier in January, India had invited FM Bilawal Bhutto to the SCO meeting, which was being interpreted by some as a possible thaw in relations between the two countries. Ahead of the SCO foreign ministers meeting, the defence ministers of the member states would also meet on April 27 in New Delhi. However, it remains to be seen if Defence Minister Khawaja Asif will attend the meeting in person or virtually. This invitation had come days after PM Shehbaz Sharif called for talks with India over all outstanding issues, including India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), before clarifying that talks cannot take place until the “illegal actions of August 5, 2019” were reversed.
While this visit will not trigger any dramatic changes in the bilateral relationship, it may still be perceived as an ice breaking move. According to sources, Islamabad took the decision to attend this summit considering the importance of the SCO and how it is a very important regional forum. Denying the invitation would have only provided India with a chance to further isolate the country.
If this visit goes according to plan, it is likely that PM Shehbaz Sharif will also visit India for the summit. This could allow the two neighbours to initiate talks on a matter of outstanding issues, but more importantly regarding the concerning developments in IIOJK. Islamabad has on multiple occasions adopted the more mature stance, and now it is up to New Delhi to take the first step.

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