India’s Foreign Minister on Thursday said that New Delhi would extend an invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan to attend the next meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, set to take place later this year.
“All eight members of SCO, as well as the four observer states and other international dialogue partners, will be invited to attend the meeting,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told media. He said the decision to accept or reject the invitation would be the prerogative of P.M. Khan.
Created in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the SCO added Pakistan and India as members in 2017. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia serve as observer states. The “alliance of the East” deliberates on various matters of mutual interest, including foreign affairs, defense, national security, economy and trade, science and technology, youth and women empowerment, tourism and media.
India is set to host a meeting of the SCO for the first time this year; last year it was held in Kyrgyzstan and was also attended by P.M. Imran Khan.
Ties between Pakistan and India have been frosty since February 2019, when New Delhi blamed Islamabad for a suicide bombing perpetrated by a Kashmiri separatist. The resulting tensions almost resulted in all-out war, but eventually a détente was achieved. Ties worsened even further in August when the Narendra Modi-led government unilaterally scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir enshrined in India’s constitution.
Pakistan has condemned the move at multiple international forums, and has vowed to highlight the plight of Kashmiris so long as India continues its lockdown of the disputed region. P.M. Imran Khan earlier this week told a German broadcaster that Pakistan was willing to conduct a plebiscite and allow Kashmiris to choose their own fate—and urged India to do the same.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, talking to Fox News on Friday, said it was unfortunate the India had acted so negatively in recent months. He said India is resorting to repression and use of force in Jammu and Kashmir, adding New Delhi’s actions were largely discriminating against minorities, especially Muslims. However, he added, Prime Minister Imran Khan has always been very clear that if India takes one step for peace, Pakistan would take two.