India, as the current SCO chair, would invite all member nations of SCO for the grouping’s meetings as per the rules
New Delhi: In line with its policy of inviting the representatives of all Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member nations for meetings of the grouping as per its rules, India has invited Pakistan’s defence minister Khawaja Asif for a SCO defence ministers’ meeting to be held in New Delhi in April, said news agency reports from Islamabad citing Pakistani media reports. There was no immediate confirmation from New Delhi, but sources said India, as the current SCO chair, would invite all member nations of SCO for the grouping’s meetings as per the rules. India had last month said it was “customary” to invite all SCO member nations for any meeting in the country.
The SCO has eight member-nations so far: Russia, China, the four Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, besides India and Pakistan, with a ninth nation, Iran, also approved earlier as a full-fledged member. Political ties between India and Pakistan continue to remain strained.
India had earlier invited Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari under the same rules for a SCO foreign ministers’ meeting that is reportedly due to be held in Goa in May, but there has been no word from Islamabad on either its attendance or if so, the level of participation (of either the foreign minister or minister of state for foreign affairs).
Another possibility may be attendance by Pakistan in virtual mode instead of in-person participation, although New Delhi had last month made it clear that it expects “in-person” attendance from representatives of the member nations if the event is not a virtual one.
Recent Pakistani media reports claimed that India had also invited Pakistan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice for a meeting of the Chief Justices of SCO member-nations but Pakistan Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial had skipped the meeting, with another Pakistani judge attending in virtual mode.