Bhutto Zardari becomes first Pakistani minister to travel to India in more than a decade

Archive – Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari – Violaine Martin/UN Photo/dpa

Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has traveled to India on Thursday to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) foreign ministers’ summit, becoming the first foreign minister to do so since 2011.

Bhutto Zardari stressed on his Twitter social networking account that his decision to attend the summit, which is being held in Goa, »illustrates Pakistan’s firm commitment to the SCO charter. »I look forward to constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries,» he said.

He also stressed that the visit »will be exclusively focused on the SCO,» thus disassociating the trip from the possibility of discussing bilateral relations with India. The trip is the first by a Pakistani foreign minister in more than a decade.

The visit is also the first direct high-level diplomatic contact between the two countries after India carried out in 2019 a series of bombings in Pakistani territory against alleged bases of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in retaliation for the attack perpetrated days earlier in the city of Pulwama, which resulted in the death of more than 45 Indian servicemen. The Pakistani Air Force responded by shooting down an Indian aircraft and arresting the pilot, who was later released.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in January proposed to India »serious and sincere» talks on their bilateral disputes, including the one revolving around the Kashmir region, although he demanded that the decision to revoke autonomy in the area, adopted in August 2019, be withdrawn beforehand.

Pakistan and India have been disputing the historic Kashmir region since 1947 and have clashed over it in two of the three wars they have fought since independence from the United Kingdom. In 1999 there was a brief but intense military confrontation between the two nuclear powers and a fragile truce has been in place since 2003.