FM Bilawal Bhutto departs for first-ever India visit

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ISLAMABAD, MAY 4: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday left for Goa, India in his first ever visit to the neighbouring country, to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Bilawal is leading the country’s delegation at the SCO’s Council of Foreign Ministers meeting scheduled to be held on May 4-5 in Goa.

While leaving for India from Karachi, Bilawal reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong commitment to the charter of SCO in a tweet.

“My visit [to India] illustrates how much Pakistan gives importance to SCO and how seriously it takes the SCO membership,” he said in a short video message.

The foreign minister said that he was looking forward to engaging bilaterally with the countries that are part of the international forum.

“During my visit, which is focused exclusively on the SCO, I look forward to constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries,” Bilawal wrote on the microblogging site.

FM Bilawal takes politicos into confidence
A day earlier, the foreign minister took coalition partners and Jamat-e-Islami (JI) chief into confidence over his first-ever India visit.

Bilawal telephoned Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Ameer Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP) President Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, JI Ameer Sirajul Haq and National Party (NP) leader Tahir Bizenjo.

He consulted with them over his two-day Goa visit.

SCO meeting
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, the FM will attend the SCO moot at the invitation of the current chair, Minister for External Affairs of India Dr S Jaishankar.

”Our participation in the meeting reflects Pakistan’s commitment to the SCO charter and processes and the importance that Pakistan accords to the region in its foreign policy priorities,” the FO spokesperson had said.

Sources in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that the foreign minister, accompanied by a delegation, will depart for Goa from Karachi via a chartered flight.

The sources privy to the development said that the Indian civil aviation authorities contacted the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCCA) and finalised the route for the special plane.

In addition to deliberating upon important regional and international issues and signing some of the institutional documents, the council will finalise the agenda and decisions to be adopted by the 17th SCO Council of Heads of State Meeting scheduled to take place in New Delhi on July 3-4, 2023.

The meeting will also witness the signing of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with five countries namely Bahrain, Kuwait Maldives, Myanmar and UAE to become Dialogue Partners of SCO.

On the sidelines of the SCO, FM Bilawal will also meet his counterparts of friendly countries.

Besides Pakistan, SCO member states include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and India.

SCO’s major objectives include promoting mutual confidence and good, neighbourly relations among member states, strengthening regional peace, security and stability, and creating a framework for effective cooperation in the fields of politics, trade and economy, culture, science and technology, education, energy, transportation, tourism, and environmental protection etc.

Since becoming a member in 2017, Pakistan has been actively and constructively contributing to all SCO activities to realise its multi-sectoral aims and objectives in a mutually beneficial manner.