New Delhi: Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will visit India on May 4-5 to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meeting, Pakistan MOFA said.

India has invited foreign ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states, including Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and China’s Qin Gang, for a high-level meeting in May. The last meeting of the SCO was held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

“Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will lead the Pakistani delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Council of Foreign Ministers to be held in Goa on May 4 and 5,” the Foreign Office said.

This put an end to weeks of speculation whether Bhutto would attend the conference in person. Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zehra Baloch said the Pakistan foreign minister will attend the conference at the invitation of Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. “Our participation in the meeting reflects Pakistan’s commitment to the SCO Charter and processes and the importance the region attaches to Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities,” he said.

This will be the first high-level visit by a Pakistani leader to India in recent years. This is expected to reduce the bitterness in relations between the two countries. Relations between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after Indian fighter jets destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror training camp in Balakot in Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019.

In August 2019, India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories, after which the relations between the two countries further deteriorated.

This will be the first visit by a Pakistani foreign minister to India since Hina Rabbani Khar in 2011. Khar is currently the Minister of State for External Affairs. Founded in Shanghai in June 2001, the SCO has eight full members, including its six founding members, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan joined as full members in 2017.

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