Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari departed for Goa on Thursday to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting.
Ahead of his departure, Bilawal — the first foreign minister to head to India in over a decade, said ahead of his departure — said that he was looking forward to “engaging bilaterally” countries that were part of the SCO.
“On my way to Goa, India. Will be leading the Pakistan delegation at the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers. My decision to attend this meeting illustrates Pakistan’s strong commitment to the charter of SCO,” he said on Twitter.
“During my visit, which is focused exclusively on the SCO, I look forward to constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries,” he said.
In a video message alongside his tweet, the foreign minister also stated that he was looking forward to “engaging bilaterally” with countries that were part of the organisation.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Foreign Office (FO) said that Bilawal had departed for Goa from Karachi. Details of the delegation accompanying the foreign minister were not immediately available.
Bilawal’s trip will be the first visit to India by a foreign minister of Pakistan since July 2011, when then-foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited for peace talks.
The visit comes at a time when the relationship between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals has nosedived over a combination of factors.
Pakistan has already made it clear that the foreign minister during his visit will not hold any bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart.
The foreign minister has also dismissed speculation surrounding his upcoming trip, saying it should not be interpreted as a sign of improved bilateral ties between the two neighbouring countries.
He clarified that he had not requested for a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emphasising that the visit should be seen in the context of the SCO, which is an eight-member political and security bloc that also includes Russia and China. He stressed that Pakistan cannot allow India to further isolate it.
In addition to deliberating upon important regional and international issues and signing some of the institutional documents, the Council of Foreign Ministers will finalise the agenda and decisions to be adopted by the 17th SCO Council of Heads of State Meeting, scheduled to take place in New Delhi on July 3-4, 2023.
The foreign minister is also expected to meet with his counterparts from friendly countries on the sidelines of the meeting.
India has also sent invitations to the foreign ministers of China and Russia along with other Central Asian countries. Iran is the newest member of the organisation and it will, for the first time, attend the SCO meeting as a full member.