WE are living in an era marked by greater interdependence among nations for which countries strive to enter bilateral and multilateral arrangements to enhance diplomatic outreach. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is one such platform, which includes the fast-emerging world powers aiming to dominate geopolitics.
The members, including the observer states, meet periodically to forge consensus to tackle security and economic challenges. Following the recently concluded SCO meeting in India, Pakistan’s foreign minister faced severe criticism from the opposition for having supposedly received a lukewarm response from his Indian counterpart. Some went on to claim that the visit was a big failure and even criticised the minister for deciding to go across the border. However, a closer look paints a different picture.
First, the SCO summits are held in member states on a rotational basis, and this year it was India’s turn. So, instead of posing it as a bilateral visit to normalise relations with India, the government’s decision to attend the in-person session should be seen in the context of the multilateral forum to tackle shared challenges with synergy among member states.
Had Pakistan decided to skip the session, it would have lost its rightful place to represent the country at a crucial regional forum. Moreover, the foreign ministry had clarified well ahead of the visit that it did not intend to hold bilateral talks with India unless the latter revives the autonomous status of the occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Second, the foreign minister rightly reminded the delegates of Pakistan’s sacrifices for fighting terrorism. In response to Indian foreign minister’s comment on cross-border terrorism, the latter gave a befitting response by alluding to state-backed Indian terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan.
Moreover, he fought the Kashmir case backed with historical facts, and clearly articulated Pakistan’s long-standing position on the issue in a TV interview.
In addition to that, the top Pakistani diplomat took the opportunity to highlight the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the benefits it can accrue to the entire region. However, he emphasised that its full potential could be realised only by setting aside hatred and heinous designs, clearly implying the Indian opposition to the project. Hence, instead of maligning the foreign minister for his visit to India for settling political scores, people across the aisle should commend the government for having undertaken a bold and successful visit.
The summit, however, provided a rare opportunity for both Pakistan and India to take baby steps to initiating bilateral talks to settle outstanding disputes. It is a pity that India has wasted this unique window by issuing harsh statements against Pakistan immediately following the SCO summit to appease its hardline support base.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2023
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.