NEW DELHI: A day after the P-5 meeting at the UNSC advised India and Pakistan to resolve their differences bilaterally, India on Thursday said it would invite Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit to be held in New Delhi later this year.

“All eight countries and four observers will be invited,” said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar when asked whether the Pakistan prime minister would be invited to SCO heads of government meeting in India.

The SCO has been used as an important forum to break the ice between the two frequently aloof neighbours. Their militaries have held joint exercises under the aegis of the SCO, which was unusual.

After the Mumbai terror nightmare of November 2008, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Zardari had their first talks at the SCO meeting in Yekatrinburg in June 2009, when both had Observers Status of the group. They became full members of the club in 2017.

All eight member countries and four observers will be invited, says ministry of external affairs

The ministry’s spokesman also disputed China’s attempt to raise the Jammu and Kashmir issue at a closed-door meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC).

“Attempt was made by Pakistan, through a UNSC member (China), to misuse the platform. Overwhelming majority of UNSC was of the view that UNSC was not the right forum for such issues and it should be discussed bilaterally,” Mr Kumar said in a meeting with the media.

The MEA added that Pakistan had a choice to “avoid such global embarrassment by refraining from such acts in future”.

The move by China was third such attempt since August when the special status granted to J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution was revoked by the government, and the state was bifurcated into two union territories.

However, members of the UNSC, including France and the US, blocked the attempt by China for a discussion on the Kashmir issue.

The imprint of the UNSC nudge was evident in the Indian stance even though it was couched in usual rhetoric.

“We hope the message has gone loud and clear to Pak that if at all there’s any matter between India and Pak that needs to be discussed, it should be done bilaterally,” Mr Kumar was quoted as saying.

Speaking about China’s intervention in the matter, Mr Kumar said: “In our view, China should seriously reflect on this global consensus, draw proper lessons and refrain from taking such action in the future”.

China on its part played down Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments in New Delhi seeing India and Brazil as permanent representatives to the UNSC.

During his visit to New Delhi on Wednesday, Mr Lavrov had backed both countries as permanent members of the UNSC. “We are convinced that the overriding trend of the global development is the objective process of the formation of new centres of economic might, financial power and political influence and India is obviously one of them,” Mr Lavrov said.

Reacting to the statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said member countries of the UN had differences over reforms in the world body.

China, however, has backed India for non-permanent membership of the UNSC for the year 2021-22. In his reply on Thursday, Mr Geng said reform of the UNSC is very important as it concerns the long-term development of the UN and interests of all members.

“Now all parties have major differences on this and we do not have broad consensus on the reform. So, China would like to work with other members to find a package solution that accommodates the interests and concerns of all parties through dialogue and consultation,” Press Trust of India quoted him as saying.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2020